8 CDs for the price of 3
To list the various distinctions awarded to the recordings that make up this sumptuous offering is almost impossible; suffice it to say that the entire series received the Grieg Award in 2007, the year of the hundredth anniversary of the death of the composer, as well as a very special commendation by the UK Grieg Society the same year. During 2003-2006, as the individual discs were released, reviewers all over the world were heaping praise over the series – astoundingly enough, as this is repertoire that at least in part belong to some of the most well-represented on disc. But this did not seem to matter to the critics, who described the performance of the Piano Concerto as one that ‘will make you fall in love with the music all over again’ (American Record Guide) and that of the Holberg Suite ‘so compelling that it simply makes you forget about any other’ (Classics Today.com), deeming the Peer Gynt Suites to be ‘interpretations that rejuvenate even this almost hackneyed, overly familiar music, relieving it of all the ballast of performance history’ (klassik.com). It was the freshness of the performances by Ole Kristian Ruud and the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra that struck most critics – freshness coupled with expertise: ‘Bergen musicians have lived with these scores since their creation and all the performances here have a relaxed, idiomatic naturalness in their virtuosity’ (Gramophone).
A second point was the superior sound quality – the result of inspired and painstaking work by the BIS recording staff in combination with the splendid acoustics of the Grieg Hall in Bergen. ‘Sonically this production features demonstration quality both in stereo and SACD multi-channel formats’ wrote the reviewer of Classics Today.com; ‘a fabulous complete cycle, admirably served by the splendid recording technique’ was the verdict in Classica-Répertoire.
The third factor contributing to the warm reception was of course the music itself, the fascination and power exerted by the Piano Concerto and the complete Peer Gynt, the emotion projected in Bergliot and Den Bergtekne, the charm and freshness of the orchestral songs and Lyric Suite – in the words of one reviewer: ‘music that you'd have to be either deaf or dead not to love’. The complete traversal, generally considered a reference point in the Grieg discography, is now available in this stereo-only version at a very advantageous price.