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Dominy Clements
MusicWeb International, July 2012

[In Grieg’s String Quartet No. 1 Op. 27], Tognetti brings out the lyrical charm of the second movement’s opening through a kind of urbane simplicity, reminding us of a world of fashionable salon music which is now rarely heard. The extra string weight adds drama to the swifter music later on, with playing very much in the spirit of chamber music style and some witty concerto-grosso exchanges between a solo group and the main string body, and effect which the SACD dimension really brings to life. The folksy rhythms of the Intermezzo really take flight in this recording, and again there are some lovely solo moments.

The Two Elegiac Melodies are themselves song transcriptions, but best known as string orchestra pieces. Tognetti gives himself a chance to play soloist in his arrangement of one of Grieg’s Lyric Pieces. Called Erotikk, this is by far the most sentimental sounding track on the programme, and entirely transformed from the piano original through vibrato and sustain in notes normally.

The Holberg Suite was deliberately written by Grieg in the manner of a Baroque dance suite and is a tremendously effective string orchestra piece. Once again, Tognetti’s nimble players prove more flexible and articulate…Tognetti undercuts their tempi consistently…He is unhurried but dynamic as usual, developing sonorities and phrasing from a sometimes vanishingly light touch and an in-built feel for layering and transparency of texture. The beautiful Sarabande is a masterclass in dynamics and colouration…This is a very fine performance indeed, and one which satisfies as much and more than most symphonic-scale recordings.

This is another triumph for Richard Tognetti’s Australian Chamber Orchestra, and a recording to covet and bring out at special occasions. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

David Hurwitz, June 2012

There have been more than a few excellent recent releases of Grieg’s music for string orchestra, notably on Naxos, including orchestrations of his String Quartet in G minor. The Quartet took a lot of heat when it first came out on account of its acres of double-stops and consequent “orchestral” sound, and truth is that it makes an absolutely terrific piece for larger ensemble…Tognetti’s arrangement really is as good as any, and as you can well imagine he has his crack ensemble playing the piece to a fare-thee-well, with all of the passion and drive that one could possibly ask for.

Tognetti presents a mixture. His arrangement of Erotikk, from the Lyric Pieces, is charming and effective, and rather more sensual than the keyboard original. The Two Elegiac Melodies are touching, fluid…the highlight of the disc must be the performance of the Holberg Suite.

Even though it has been done to death, this version stands out for the vivacious charm and witty phrasing of its Praeludium (sound sample attached), and for the rustic brilliance of the concluding Rigaudon. In between, the Gavotte also has a welcome spring to its step, and as with the Elegiac Melodies the two slower movements never bog down in excessive sentiment. Mind you, sentiment in this music, and plenty of it, isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if you are going to use smaller forces, this is surely the way to do it. Sonically, this is absolutely state of the art: clear, pure, and tactile in the best way. If the coupling appeals, go for it. © 2012 Read complete review

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