In December the Swiss record label Prospero released a CD featuring the marvelous Israeli pianist Daniel Gortler performing selections from Edvard Grieg’s ten books of Lyric Pieces.

Educated at The Rubin Academy of Music in Tel Aviv, Israel  and The MusikHochschule in Hanover, Germany, Daniel Gortler has gone on to ­perform with some of the world’s best orchestras including The San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, and the Houston Symphony to name just a few. He has made appearances at very prestigious Festivals such as the Lucerne Festival, Schleswig-Holstein Festival,  and the Verbirer Festival and has performed chamber music alongside the likes Daniel Johannsen, Steven Isserlis and Sylvia Schwartz.

When it comes to the piano miniature, Gortler feels very much at home. He has made a magnificent recording of Mendelssohn’s Songs without words that is available on the Romeo Records Label. With this latest Grieg project he has explored the moods, feelings and elements of Norwegian folk music than run throughout the books. As Gortler explains, “The melodic line and the harmony and lyricism  is very important to me, and I always feel the music first of all, in those channels…I think in those miniatures, that the most important thing…the singing line. Like there was a singer… but there is just the piano.”

The idea of recording Grieg's Lyric pieces came to Gortler during the pandemic. He had more time on his hands, and was looking for other music to perform. Scriabin, Poulenc and others were explored, but it was a piano technician friend of his that suggested he listen to a recording of the great Emil Gilels performing the Lyric Pieces, and for Gortler that recording had a profound effect. “I listened, and I really fell in love with those pieces. I started to play one… two… and then five and then ten…and COVID was still there…and so I found twenty or twenty-five…that’s how the project was born.”

The passion Gortler has for these pieces is very intense. “Grieg puts everything in this dish! There is the folklore, nature, the drama, the dance…there is the sad and happy and all the feelings that one can feel… memories… and Norwegian views and landscapes...I feel all of that in the music,” says Gortler.

The end result of this exploration and discovery of the music of Grieg by Gortler makes for a CD that is absolutely exquisite. There are no hard edges on the recording; every piece is played with a beautiful touch and expressiveness that is enchanting and intoxicating to listen to. Even when things should be more aggressive and stormy; such as the March of the Trolls from Book Five, Gortler is careful that the sound does not get away from him and the voicing of each chord is heard in utmost clarity.

The characters, landscapes, moods and folklore that Grieg intended are all there. You can almost smell the clear, fresh air of the Norwegian Fjords on this recording. If you can’t afford to travel to Norway, Daniel Gortler has provided the next best thing with this collection of 21 Lyric Pieces by Grieg.

This is a recording that needs to be heard!