Richard Tognetti and the ACO are in sparkling form in this wonderfully enjoyable program of Grieg. The major work here is Tognetti’s skilful transcription of String Quartet No 1 in G minor, Op 27, the composer’s only extant complete work in the genre. Digging into the almost Piazzolla-like rhythms of the opening movement, the band delivers a zesty account of this colourful score. The contrasting episodes of the Romanze and the Intermezzo are handled deftly, while the concluding Saltarello has an almost manic intensity.
By way of contrast we are then offered the Two Elegiac Melodies, Op 34. These popular but all too brief works are played superbly; their aching melancholy lit by beauty of tone and delicacy of ensemble. Erotikk from the Lyric Pieces is a scintillating miniature, more nostalgic than sensual, sensitively arranged by Tognetti for solo violin and orchestra.
What better way to finish than with the Holberg Suite? At pains to preserve the dance-like quality of Grieg’s neo-Baroque masterpiece, the orchestra achieves a perfect blend of energy and lightness throughout. Admirable rhythmic acuity characterises the Praeludium, the courtly intimacy of the Sarabande contrasts well with the crisply accented Gavotte. The fervent Air, with its pulsing accompaniment, is a splendid foil to the final Rigaudon’s country fiddling. Solos from Tognetti and violist Christopher Moore are lovingly dispatched.
All the excitement and colour that audiences have come to expect from the ACO in concert is expertly captured here in the Super Audio engineering. And there is a maturity and finesse to these performances that is hard to beat.