on August 26, 2006
If you are on the lookout for exciting and distinctive orchestral works, it does not get much better than this. This release is spectacular! If you are unfamiliar with Geirr Tveitt (1908-1981) - he was a Norwegian composer of vibrant orchestral works; most notably the "A Hundred Hardanger Tunes" suites. His works, heavily influenced by Norwegian folk music, are primarily modal, with heavy use of the Lydian mode, which is distinctive for its raised fourth. Tveitt's compositions are filled with charming, brilliantly orchestrated, melodies. Regrettably, most of Tveitt's compositions were lost when his farmhouse was destroyed by a fire in 1970.
The present release contains Tveitt's two Hardanger fiddle concertos. The fiddle takes its name from a region of Norway and is unique for its four lower (sympathetic) strings in addition to the standard upper strings. The sympathetic strings are not played by the bow but provide additional resonance when the upper strings are played. The first concerto is filled with lively dance rhythms and contains a haunting central movement. The finale is exceptional and contains one of the best whirlwind conclusions in all of classical music. In addition to the great melodies employed by Tveitt, the colorful orchestration should be specifically mentioned. It seems as though each section of the orchestra has a moment in the spotlight. The second concerto is known as the "Three Fjords" concerto as each movement is intended to be a representation of a specific Norwegian fjord. I particularly like the exuberant "Nordfjord" movement with its dazzling fiddle part.
The program concludes with a symphonic painting called Nykken. The story on which the music is based concerns a white horse that rises from a black pond. The horse allows itself to be caught by a boy. The boy mounts the horse, which begins to trot slowly, but the slow trot turns into a wild gallop. At the conclusion, the horse jumps into the black pond with the boy still mounted, taking him to the depths. Again, this is a highly imaginative piece filled with colorful orchestration and memorable melodies. The musical depiction of the horse ride is easy to follow and is quite thrilling.
The Stavanger Symphony Orchestra under Ole Kristian Ruud does an excellent job here. The sonics are up to BIS' very high standard, as well. This is great music and is well-worth exploring. This release, as well as the other Tveitt releases on Naxos and BIS, has my highest and most enthusiastic recommendation!!
on March 21, 2010
The Geirr Tveitt revival is one of the most welcome revivals undertaken the last decade or so. His music is heavily indebted to Norwegian folk music, but cast in a musical language redolent of Ravel and Bartok; this is music of granitic power, fairy tale magic, snow and clear streams tumbling off tall, forbidding mountains, trolls dancing around fires in the depth of the earth, lush forests, thunder and blood - that kind of thing. It is truly marvelous music, inventive, atmospheric - mesmerizing even - superbly scored and always original and fresh.
His indebtedness to Norwegian folk music is never more obvious than in the two concertos here for the Hardanger Fiddle with orchestra. The hardanger fiddle is a descendant of the viola d'amore with resonating strings under the fingerboard, which gives it a sound not quite like anything else; the relatively thin tone is offset by huskily trollish sonorities that overall creates a sound full-bodied enough to make the fiddle work well as a concert instrument, even when pitted against a full orchestra, but creating some remarkably otherworldly textures. Tveitt's approach resembles Bartok's in that the Norwegian folk music base is used in a rather modern, gritty setting - but always with a romantic sensibility which is especially noticeable in several marvelously lyrical, beautiful sections. The first concerto dates from 1955 and is the most substantial - it lasts almost half an hour, but never does invention or imagination falter; at least the subtly developing, evocative textures and moods kept this listener hypnotized for the whole duration. The second concerto is more compact and despite the title not really more of a pure nature-painting than the first; it is tuneful, concentrated and purposeful - a really excellent work.
Arve Moen Bergset plays with spirit and verve, providing all the sinewy urgency the works require and a beautiful tone in the lyrical parts. The Stavanger Symphony Orchestra under Ole Kristian Ruud are equally superb partners, and they give an equally evocative and colorful performance of the `symphonic painting' Nykken (the Water Sprite); an urgently intense, stirring, powerful and spectacular and work that ought to be heard by anyone with a passing interest in early 20th century music. The sound quality is excellent, and this is overall a truly superb disc, urgently recommended.
on September 2, 2003
This is a wonderful recording.Tveitt's approach to the problems of form and orchestration facing modern composers is completly unique and hypnotically compelling.His use of folk idioms in the Hardanger Concertos is unaffected and subtle.The performances of all concerned are uniformly excellent.(The more I hear of the Stavanger Symphony the more impressed I am.Their performance of Saeverud's ninth symphony,also on BIS, is extraordinary.)The engineering here is first rate,very full sounding with excellent detail and only just a bit over-reverberent.If you love norwegian music,then I think that,like me,you will not want to stop listening to this.
on March 21, 2004
Nykken is a scrumptious symphonic poem, worthy to take a place with works such as Sibelius's Pohjola's Daughter, Hovhaness's Mysterious Mountain, Mussorgsky's Night on the Bare Mountain, et al. That is, it belongs in the canon of musical compositions that evoke not just a mood correlative to literary fantasy, but that also convey or suggest a fantastic narrative. My impression is that a lot of recent musical efforts in this vein have a Celtic (or "Celtic") quality. Nykken comes from chillier Northern spaces.
The cello concertos are also very enjoyable.