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Bath International Music Festival (2)
  Økland / Apeland / Nordli trio: Nils Økland (hardanger fiddle, violin), Sigbjorn Apeland (harmonium), Åsne Valland Nordli (soprano), Guildhall, Bath, 27.05.2006 (GPu)

This was the kind of music which gives categories a bad name. It was officially part of the Jazz strand of the Bath International Music Festival. But I’m not sat all sure that ears brought up on jazz – even, say, the work of fellow Norwegian Jan Garbarek – would necessarily be entirely attuned to the music of this trio. The idioms were certainly not those of any conventional idea of jazz, even if the element of improvisation was certainly important. Several of the numbers they played were based on traditional Norwegian tunes, but aspects of the way they were treated belonged more to modern ‘classical’ chamber music than to folk music. Åsne Valland Nordli’s voice sounded, at times, like liturgical chant given a personal twist, at others like a contribution to some kind of ambient music, at still others like a boy soprano singing folk songs.
But enough of such matters. The music we heard had its own truth and integrity which made squabbles over labels finally irrelevant. It was music of great intimacy, characterised by a seamless blend of instruments and voice; music of, on the whole, great repose, often melancholy, often imbued with grave beauty.
Individual pieces often began with fragments of sound on unaccompanied violin or fiddle, seeming to emerge tentatively from silence, before building up into complex structures and patterns, often accompanied by a wordless descant from Nordli’s pure soprano voice as well as by the charming sound of Apeland’s subtle work at the harmonium. Økland is a musician of considerable technical skill, as well as of utterly individual imagination. His musical language draws on many idioms – at times one is reminded of some of the solo violin works of the baroque period, and it came as no surprise when one piece was introduced as one of his own compositions, employing one of the tunings from Heinrich Biber’s sonatas. Other pieces were religious folk songs from the West Coast of Norway, from the area around Hardangerfjord, from where Nordli hails.
Though predominantly tender, delicate and sensitive, there were flashes of more overt power in the music, richly of the landscape of its country of origin, but also expressive of a complex range of emotions. The sound of the hardanger fiddle, rich in the resonance produced by its vibrating strings, was the dominant presence, but the interplay with voice and harmonium made for rewarding listening as textures slowly changed, the effects often hypnotic.
The relative uniformity of pace was perhaps a limitation, but it was a limitation which, paradoxically, served to make the listener concentrate on smaller details. The effect was frequently hypnotic and this was a concert which was deservedly very well received by a large audience.



Glyn Pursglove





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Contributors: Marc Bridle (North American Editor), Martin Anderson, Patrick Burnson, Frank Cadenhead, Colin Clarke, Paul Conway, Geoff Diggines, Sarah Dunlop, Evan Dickerson Melanie Eskenazi (London Editor) Robert J Farr, Abigail Frymann, Göran Forsling, Simon Hewitt-Jones, Bruce Hodges,Tim Hodgkinson, Martin Hoyle, Bernard Jacobson, Tristan Jakob-Hoff, Ben Killeen, Bill Kenny (Regional Editor), Ian Lace, Jean Martin, John Leeman, Neil McGowan, Bettina Mara, Robin Mitchell-Boyask, Simon Morgan, Aline Nassif, Anne Ozorio, Ian Pace, John Phillips, Jim Pritchard, John Quinn, Peter Quantrill, Alex Russell, Paul Serotsky, Harvey Steiman, Christopher Thomas, John Warnaby, Hans-Theodor Wolhfahrt, Peter Grahame Woolf (Founder & Emeritus Editor)