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Musica Rediviva


 

 

From Castle and Cottage
Olof JANSSON (1927-1993)
Kyrkrmarsch (Church March) [3:23]
Eric SALHSTRÖM (1912-1986)
Vårdroppar (Spring Drops) [2:39]; Stormyren [3:05]
C.P.E. BACH (1714-1788)
Sonata in C (originally for viola da gamba and continuo) [13:32]
Lars NÄSBORN (b 1925)
Kyrkpolska [2:18]
J S BACH (1685-1750)
Suite No. 1 in G BWV1007 (originally for cello) [14:27]
François COUPERIN (1668-1733)
Cinquième Prélude (from Les arts de toucher le clavecin) (1716) [2:41]
Marin MARAIS (1656-1728)
“La Rêveuse” (originally for viola da gamba and continuo) (1717) [5:29]; Des 32 Couplets de Folies (originally for viola da gamba and continuo) (1701) [14:56]
Torbjörn Näsborn (nyckelharpa), Andreas Edlund (harpsichord)
rec. 10-18 January 2006, Dala-Järna Church, Dalarna, Sweden. DDD
MUSICA REDIVIVA MRCD 014 [63:33]

Why should you want to buy a CD played on an instrument and by a musician of which and of whom, unless you are Swedish, you probably haven’t heard? Here is one answer: when the instrument is the nyckelharpa and the player is Torbjörn Näsborn. The instrument is a kind of keyed fiddle, earliest known in Sweden from 14th and 15th century church art and from a real instrument dated 1526. Like the hurdy-gurdy it has keys to control pitch, but whereas the strings are vibrated on the former with a wheel, on the nyckelharpa a short bow is used. In addition, like the viola d’amore, the modern version of the nyckelharpa has sympathetic strings – twelve on the instrument used on this CD. The result is a wholly individual sound, lacking in vibrato but flexible and capable of variation in articulation. Clearly related to the viola da gamba and to other folk instruments it is more than capable of meeting most of the very varied requirements of the music played here. I understand that there has been a revival of interest in it in recent years in Sweden. This is understandable, and CDs such as this could easily spread it well beyond there.

Torbjörn Näsborn started as a violinist, playing both classical and folk music, but he took up the nyckelharpa later, initially as a side activity. This disc shows that he can play not only folk-inspired music such as that of Lars Näsborn and Eric Sahlsröm with gusto and grace, but also great and well known baroque masterpieces. I do however find the Bach Suite the least satisfactory item on the disc. This is not because of any objection in principle to playing it on instruments other than the cello. After all, convincing recordings of it are available played on, for instance, the viola and the guitar. It can give pleasure in private to players of many other instruments, from the flute to the double bass. Näsborn does not give an unmusical or uninteresting performance, but the much more limited sonority of his instrument does seem to reduce the impact of the music, in particular of the Prelude and Sarabande. 

The other large scale transcriptions are much more satisfactory. Both the C.P.E. Bach and the Marin Marais pieces are utterly convincing, and in no way lose out from not being played on the viola da gamba for which they were written. The Couplets de Folies are played with both dash and concern for their cumulative effect. Both Näsborn and Edlund, the excellent harpsichord player, are at their best here, at the end of the CD, which I have found makes it almost impossible to avoid the temptation to return to the start and listen to it all over again. 

The impact of the playing is assisted by an excellent recording, clear and well balanced, neither too close to the instruments nor in too reverberant a space. The notes, by Professor Emeritus Jan Ling are helpful about the instruments - and come in Swedish and Japanese as well as English - but say little about the music. The beautifully presented folder containing both notes and CD does however have a delightful series of photographs taken by Leif Haglund on the estate of Wapnö Slott, Halland, which may not always be directly related to the contents of the CD but are a source of great pleasure in themselves. All in all, I can strongly recommend this to anyone with an interest in Baroque music, folk music or simply wanting to hear great music played in an unexpected but wholly fascinating way. 

John Sheppard

 

 

 


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