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CD: Crotchet
Download: Classicsonline


Geirr TVEITT (1908–1981)
Songs - Poems by Aslaug Vaa
1. Svara meg mi harpe (Answer me, my harp) [1:52]
2. Marskveld (March evening) [2:56]
3. I hasseldokk (In the hazel hollow) [1:31]
4. Sommormessa (Summer fair) [5:04]
5. Den gamle apalen (The old apple tree) [2:23]
6. Villarkonn (Wild seed) [4:22]
7. Vaka og vente [Watching and waiting) [1:47]
8. Nordlysun (Northern light) [4:01]
9. Hestemennan (The horsemen) [4:25]
10. Nykelen (The key) [4:01]
11. So rodde dei fjordan (Then they rowed the fjords) [4:25]
Poems by Olav H. Hauge
12. Fela (The fiddle) [2:47]
13. Langeleiken (The zither) [1:17]
14. Seljefløyta (The willow flute) [3:03]
15. Revebjøllor (Foxgloves) [1:37]
16. Snø (Snow) [1:12]
17. Svarte krossar (Black crosses) [3:13]
Poems by Aslaug Låstad Lygre
18. Kveld i sundet (Evening in the inlet) [3:36]
19. Mjukt sker åra (Softly the oars cut) [2:21]
20. Bera ei sorg (Carrying grief) [4:54]
Per Vollestad (baritone), Sigmund Hjelset (piano)
rec. 17-19 March 2008, Lindemansalen, NMH, Oslo
Texts and English translations enclosed.
SIMAX PSC1223 [60:38]


Experience Classicsonline

Geirr Tveitt was born on 19 October 1908, so this disc can be seen as a centenary celebration. Like Edvard Grieg he was born in Bergen but his family roots were in Nordheimsund in the province of Hardanger. It was also there that he spent most of his childhood summers and from 1942 he also settled there for good. Early on he got in touch with the folk music tradition of the region and was inspired by the themes he found there. He learned to play violin and piano as a boy and was persuaded by Christian Sinding to study music, which he did in Leipzig and later in Paris, where his teacher was Villa-Lobos. Back in Hardanger in the 1940s he collected folk tunes, which he arranged for piano and also for orchestra. He had a career as concert pianist after the war and in the 1960s was invited by the Norwegian Radio to make a series of programmes about poets from western Norway. It was in connection with these interviews that these songs came into being.

He was an enormously prolific composer but in 1970 his home was destroyed in a fire and a large part of his compositions went up in flames. This catastrophe also brought an end to his creative powers. Luckily some of his manuscripts were saved and today a great deal of his music is available on record, not least on a Naxos series with Håvard Gimse and Bjarte Engeset.

He has a very distinct personal tonal language, often built on modal scales, which he regarded as originally Norwegian. There is also a folk feeling about many of his works. I was fairly familiar with his music through the above-mentioned recordings and through hearing Håvard Gimse perform his music in recital. I had never heard any of his songs before and I have to say that they grabbed me by the throat from the first bars and never let go throughout this recital. His melodies sound unlike those of anyone else. He hardly ever repeats himself and each poem gets its own unique treatment. Being surprised all the time is one feature of listening to his songs – and melody is only part of this. His rhythms are thrilling, syncopations abound – listen to Den gamle apalen (tr. 5) or the jazzy lilt of Revebjøllor (tr. 15). While the melodies are not particularly ‘modern’ the accompaniments sometimes are. Often they are sparse but Tveitt does not fight shy of spicing them with quite acrimonious harmonies: try the dark Svarte krossar (tr 17)! As in his instrumental compositions nature and folk life are important ingredients also in his songs. I don’t think I have been so captivated with ‘new’ songs since I was carried away by Nicolae Bretan’s music (see review for further references).

One further reason for this is no doubt the singing of Per Vollestad, who has had an international career as an opera artist and recitalist for two decades. He has his mellow baritone in excellent shape to this very day. I believe these songs, so specifically Norwegian, need to be sung by someone who knows the language (the poems are in nynorsk) as well as the musical idiom. I cannot imagine the songs better sung, whether in lyrical or more dramatic mode. In the final song Bera ei sorg we find both. Sigmund Hjelset is a flexible accompanist, the recording first class and Per Vollestad’s notes – he is a scholar too – excellent.

This is one of the finest song discs in a long time. I wouldn't be surprised if it finds its way into my Discs of the Year.

Göran Forsling 



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