Leif Ove Andsnes's Grieg centenary disc has a high irritation factor. Well over half of it consists of reissues, and anyone who cares about either Grieg or Andsnes will probably have them already: the selection of Lyric Pieces derives from the famous set made in Troldhaugen in 2002, while his imposing second version of the Piano Concerto, with Mariss Jansons and the Berlin Philharmonic, first appeared the following year. What's new is the Ballade in G Minor, which Andsnes has only recently added to his repertoire. Written in 1875, when Grieg was suffering from depression, it's effectively a vast set of variations on a chromatically disorienting theme that completely overturns common perceptions of Grieg as a sentimental miniaturist. Andsnes does great things with it: the opening is notably stark and uncompromising, while the closing variations, in which harmony and rhythm come close to a point of total breakdown, are phenomenally intense. Well worth acquiring, even if you're familiar with the rest of it.
CD: Grieg: Piano Concerto; Ballade in G Minor: Six Lyric Pieces
Tim Ashley is a Guardian classical and opera critic, though he's also keen on literature and philosophy so you might sometimes find him cross-referencing all three. His work has also appeared in Literary Review and Opera magazine and he is author of a biography of Richard Strauss