The 1903 acoustic recordings of Grieg playing nine of his own piano pieces are well known. Sigurd Slåttebrekk and Tony Harrison were drawn to the artistic quality of the playing itself. This evolved into a historic pioneering project of ‘musical archaeology’, reviving a performance tradition from over a hundred years ago. They have gone through re-creation and beyond – with interpretations based as much on how Grieg played as on how he wrote. A brand new approach to ‘original performance practice’!
Chasing to learn, not to catch
It all started with the work around the recording of the Piano Concerto, where Grainger’s recording of the cadenza inspired a different approach to this well known piece. Further influenced by oral traditions like jazz and folk music Slåttebrekk and Harrison have listened in depth to each detail of Grieg’s own playing and tried to imitate the performances at Grieg’s piano at Troldhaugen. Examining the components of Grieg’s playing and re-playing them: single notes, turns of phrase, longer sections, whole pieces; deconstructing, re-building, melding and forging. Understanding through imitation, and imitation through understanding. This work has revealed how Grieg is actually sculpting his phrases on firm but often complex and surprising patterns – in a remarkably consistent fashion.
Research with instant use of the findings
Slåttebrekk and Harrison have already created quite a stir in the international community with their approach and findings during presentations of this material at several universities in Europe. The booklet notes here explain in detail the method and findings – and the immediate consequences. Because Slåttebrekk does not only record the pieces Grieg himself recorded; he also further applies what he has learned from Grieg. He completes the Sonata in E minor, and records the epic Ballade in G minor. This last work – one of Grieg’s most personal – is particularly fascinating to hear interpreted in a language created in a musical analysis of the composers’ own playing.
Sigurd Slåttebrekk and Tony Harrison
As titles go, Chasing the Butterfly also hits home describing the fascinating process behind this project. Two soul-mates inspire and challenge each other in continuous artistic innovation and development. Sigurd Slåttebrekk (b 1968) has previously released acclaimed recordings of Ravel and Schumann, co-created the animated TV-series “Elias” for children (Emmy nomination 2006) and is now finishing his thesis on late 19th Century pianist performing styles. Tony Harrison (b 1957) is a classical music producer regarded as among the foremost and most creative in his field today. The result of this work is being published as informative video-blogs at www.chasingthebutterfly.com