Classical Album of the Week: Springtime Is Here with Elena Urioste's Portrait of Grieg
April 27, 2020. With the sun higher in the sky and the chill in the air fading away, the promise of spring is all around us, even if we aren’t celebrating it quite as we would hope to. If there could be a compensation prize for bearing up at home, with so many uncertainties and having to watch the tulips bloom from inside, it's surely this gem—Philadelphia violinist Elena Urioste’s new album, To the Spring.Her third release, and second one with collaborator, pianist, and husband Tom Poster, To the Spring is a complete portrait of Edvard Grieg as composer for the violin. Included are not only the three violin sonatas, but also two short works transcribed and arranged for violin and piano by Elena and Tom, themselves.
No strangers to adopting miniatures from outside the violin repertoire, Elena and Tom did something similar for their 2018 album, Estrellita, where they included transcribed popular songs such as "Moon River" and "Over the Rainbow." In this new album, the adopted little jewels are Våren(Last Spring), Op.33 No.2 and Til våren (To the Spring), Op.43 No.5.
"This album... is the balm for my corona-laden head and heart." -Heather McDougall
The three sonatas, in Elena’s and Tom’s hands, are more than enough to give us a really satisfying listening arc, and hear the abundance of Grieg’s gifts evolving. Don’t miss their deft, savvy playing in the finale of the second sonata!
Våren and Til våren aren’t to be overlooked, though—they offer us bits of respite along the way. As brief interludes, these two pieces downshift the listener into a more reflective place, cleansing our palette between the sonatas.
In a 2019 interview with "Meet the Artist," Elena, discussing repertoire, said “I joke about this a lot—‘I should only ever play slowly and quietly’—but the truth is that those moments of intimacy, romance, and secrets are and have always been my favorites in music.”
Clearly taken with such moments, Elena misses no opportunity to indulge us here. Våren and Til våren may be slight, modest in scale and some may mistake them as throwaways. But in those small quiet packages is where you best experience the sweetness and delicacy of sound for which Grieg’s writing yearns and that this duo does so well.
Surely, To the Spring will be enjoyed in every season, amidst lockdown and beyond, but sitting with this album now is the balm for my corona-laden head and heart.
Perhaps Elena and Tom said it best in their prescient liner notes: “In a world which often seems fraught with over-complication and disharmony, Grieg’s music–filled with childlike wonder and clear mountain air–transports us to a simpler, kinder place.”
Listen to Elena and Tom play the finale of Grieg’s Sonata No. 2, recorded while busking in some of London’s train stations:
For a daily treat, check out Elena’s and Tom’s “live from their Philly living room” performances posted on Facebook and Youtube under "#UriPosteJukeBox.