Grieg’s ‘second’ concerto receives a world premiere

Grieg’s ‘second’ concerto receives a world premiere


norman lebrecht

February 01, 2018

press release:

SOMM Recordings are about to release a recording with pianist Mark Bebbington and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Jan Latham-Koenig. The CD includes the … world premiere of what Grieg left of his incomplete Second Piano Concerto, edited and orchestrated by Robert Matthew-Walker.

Although Grieg’s Second Piano Concerto, commissioned by his Peters Edition in 1882, was never completed, the approximately 150 bars he sketched hint at what might have been. Following Grieg’s few instrumental indications, Robert Matthew-Walker has orchestrated ­the complete sketches in the sequence in which they were left, to make a coherent single movement giving, for the first time, the clearest indication of what Grieg had in mind for a work left tantalisingly unfinished. Just three bars have been added to preserve continuity and overall coherence. It receives its premiere recording here.

Mark Bebbington said:

“It is fascinating to see and hear what was in Grieg’s mind as he embarked on this Second Concerto; certainly the jaunty opening idea shares a similar character to the main Allegro theme of the A minor Concerto’s Finale, but elsewhere there are simply tantalising glimpses of what might have been…”

Robert Matthew-Walker said:

“Grieg’s Second Piano Concerto remained unfinished, its thematic and harmonic fragments largely unknown until they were published towards the end of the 20th-century. Since then, several composers have written full-scale works based upon Grieg’s material, of which a number have been performed and recorded. But as in each instance around 95% of the finished score is not by Grieg, none can be considered a ‘completion’ of Grieg’s Second Concerto in the sense of Deryck Cooke’s performing version of Mahler’s Tenth Symphony, or Anthony Payne’s elaboration of what Elgar left of his Third Symphony…

…As Grieg’s Second Concerto is unperformable, it seemed to me that rather than let the music remain on the printed page, it should be perfectly possible to present his sketches in such a way that they can be heard in a manner as close to his sound-world as we can get. The sketches, when placed together in sequence, make a broadly coherent single movement, although it is very unlikely that Grieg intended other than a three-movement work. None the less, in hearing those sketches, one after another, flowing as naturally as they do, the listener is at last able to hear just what was in Grieg’s mind at the time.



  • John Borstlap says:

    Why this interest in ‘new music’ from premodern times – ‘new’ in the sense of still unheard? Because, contrary to what avantgarde composers since WW II have said time and again, performers and audiences are in principle interested in new music, as long as it relates to the central performance culture, i.e. has the psychological and expressive dimension which is expected from the art form.

  • Charles G. Clark Maxwell says:

    What was it never completed ? Grieg lived for another 25 years (1907) after he gave up on this second concerto.

    So it’s definitely not the same as Mahler X, Elgar III or Bartok Viola Concerto

  • Rodney Friend says:

    It’s not a premiere. I already own a recording of this:

    • Dominy Clements says:

      Not quite the same thing in this case. At least, Evju’s work was an entry to a competition for writing a piano concerto that included fragments from the incomplete concerto. I know because I entered as well and came reasonably close to winning.

  • Philippa Ballard says:

    Yes, it’s already been heard. Plus discussions on the incomplete Piano Quartet (Quintet ?) of the same year which shared a theme.

    This is not hot-off-the-press news you know…….

    • Hilary says:

      Completed by Michael Finnissy, correct.

      Robert Matthew Walker has a remarkable breadth of sympathy which can only do him credit: his biographical studies range from Maddona and David Bowie, to Robert Simpson and Rachmaninov.

  • Jean says:

    Nothing new under the sun!