spite of the tragic fire which destroyed Geirr Tveitt’s
home and a large part of his oeuvre in 1970 quite a lot
has survived. It is good that so much has been made available
to the general public, not least thanks to the efforts
of Naxos and the indefatigable Bjarte Engeset.
present disc is the first complete edition of his music
for wind instruments and the result is overwhelming – for
two reasons. The music in itself is as personal as anything
else Tveitt wrote and the playing by The Royal Norwegian
Navy Band is stunning. The overall effect is enhanced by
the spacious acoustics of the Tønsberg Domkirke and by
a superlative recording. The venue is a tall building in
red brick seating 550 persons. It seems to be an ideal
venue – at least for wind music. The Royal Norwegian Navy
Band consists of 29 professional players. For this occasion
they brought in double-basses and a harp.
Tveitt regarded himself as practically an amateur in the
wind-music genre. He said: ‘I believe I have somewhat better
knowledge of symphony orchestras.’; be that as it may.
Some of the music is no doubt thickly orchestrated, as
Engeset also points out in his liner-notes. However, it
has great impact and Tveitt also knew how to lighten the
texture and achieve music of great lyric beauty.
so often with Tveitt the music draws on rhythms and themes
from the folk music of his native Hardanger. Whether the
themes are genuine or of his own invention matters little.
What is important is that the result has a genuine ring,
sounding Norwegian or, more specifically, Tveittian. The Sinfonia
(soffiatori according to my dictionary
meaning glass-blowers) in three movements starts with a
horn theme that breathes the air of ancient times – I associated
the sound with bronze-age lurs. This is followed by jagged
brass rhythms whereupon, by contrast, the woodwind enter
with softer, more transparent sounds accompanied by the
harp. The second movement is marked Alla Marcia
it marches all right – but with a dancing quality. The
rhythm is the characteristic Halling. The concluding Andante
far from the calm amble one might expect. Instead parts
of the movement are quite barbaric but this is redeemed
by soft romantic harp chords and a glittering triangle.
was written in memory of the successor
to the Danish-Norwegian throne, who had to renounce his
claims in connection with the ‘Moss convention’ in 1814,
when the union between Sweden and Norway was declared.
It is rather bombastic music – but stirring enough.
remaining three original compositions for wind band were
all entries in a competition in 1962, where Tveitt won
all three prizes. Hymn to Freedom
was the third
a swinging and, towards the end, almost
orgiastic piece. In The Old Mill on the Brook
can hear the wheel of the mill moving round for a few moments.
The first prize winner, the Sinfonietta di Soffiatori,
certainly innovative with a springar – a common Norwegian
dance – dominating the second movement. The Fanfara
is characterised by insistent drums.
first appeared as piano music. Later
Tveitt arranged four orchestral suites, each containing
fifteen movements. From suites 2, 4 and 5 (there’s no
suite No. 3) Stig Nordhagen has chosen nine movements
and transcribed them for wind band. These are fascinating
pieces: entertaining, illustrative or just harmonically
and melodically enticing. To gain a really deep understanding
of the music the best idea is to start with the piano
versions (they have all been recorded on Naxos by Håvard
Gimse) and then move to the thematically linked orchestral
suites (recorded on Naxos by Bjarte
Engeset - see reviews of Suites
2 & 5
wind versions are unavoidably more straightforward and
entertaining. With playing of the calibre of The Royal
Norwegian Navy Band they should be excellent additions
to the band repertoire.
disc gave me great pleasure. To be totally absorbed one
needs to turn up the volume and be enclosed in the sound.
I made the mistake of listening at high volume on headphones;
this turned out to be too penetrative. I got a lot of thrilling
orchestral detail but brass sound in particular should
be heard at some distance.
cover painting is part of a larger watercolour by Gyri
Tveitt, Geirr’s and Tullemor’s daughter. It is entitled Hymn
and is inspired by Geirr Tveitt’s music
and his way of painting. The handwritten score covering
the mountain reproduced on the cover is from the manuscript
of an early work called Prillar
which is a symphonic ode to nature and freedom. Gyri Tveitt
writes about the symbolism of the painting in a note. David
Gallagher gives a wider picture of Tveitt and his relation
to folk music. Bjarte Engeset analyses the actual compositions
on the disc.
music enthusiasts will have a field-day with this disc.
It should also be heard by everyone who has fallen under
the spell of Geirr Tveitt’s highly personal writing.