The Piano Concerto in A minor is perhaps the best-known work by the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg (1843–1907). Composed in 1868, the concerto’s first performance took place in 1869 in Copenhagen. As Geoff Kuenning writes, “It has since become a favorite with audiences worldwide, and with good reason, for from the unforgettably dramatic opening cadenza to the sweepingly grand final chords, the concerto is filled with invention, originality, and sparkle that cannot help but please the ear.”
The soloist in this video is Valentina Lisitsa, whom I first became aware of through YouTube. In this performance, which took place in December 2008, Valentina is accompanied by the Seoul Philharmonic under the direction of James Judd. This collaboration reminds me of a comment by Sarah Chang about music being the one and only universal language: we have a concerto by a Norwegian composer, played by a Ukrainian/American pianist and a Korean orchestra, conducted by an Englishman.
Part 1 includes most of the first movement. Part 2 begins with the cadenza that concludes the first movement and continues with the lyrical second movement, which always calls to mind – my mind, at least – the great outdoors of Grieg’s native Norway. Part 3 begins with the end of the second movement, and moves without pause into the third and final movement. I invite you to note especially the beautiful flute solo which begins at the 3:35 mark, followed by a lovely duet between the piano and first cello.
I hope you feel as I do, that this concerto by Grieg is a joy from beginning to end. Clearly the audience at this performance in Seoul felt that joy, as they invited Valentina Lisitsa back onstage for four (!) encores, which we will hear in our next post.