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Geirr TVEITT (1908 – 1981)
Sinfonia di Soffiatori (1974) [16:01]
Prinds Christan Frederiks Honnørmarch (Prince Christian Fredrick’s March of Honour (1917) [3:19]
Det gamle Kvernhuset (The Old Mill on the Brook), Op. 204 (1962) [3:03]
Hymne til Fridomen (Hymn to Freedom) (1962) [3:05]
Sinfonietta de Soffiatori, Op. 203 (1962) [12:40]
Hundrad Hardingtonar (A Hundred Hardanger Tunes), Op. 151 (transcriptions by Stig Nordhagen): Suite No. 2: Femtan Fjelltonar (15 Mountain Songs) [5:45] (No. 20: Med sterkt Øl te Fjells (Bringing strong Ale into the Mountain) [1:23]; No. 23: Rjupo pao Folgafodne (The Song of the Snow Grouse on the Folgafodne Glacier) [3:04]; No. 29: Fjedlmansjento upp I Lid (The Mountain Girl skiing Downhill) [1:18]); Suite No. 4: Brudlaupssuiten (Wedding Suite) [6:30] (No. 47: Friarføter (Going a-wooing) [1:32]; No. 52: Graot og Laott aot ain Baot (Tears and Laughter for a Boat) [1:37];  No. 60: Haringøl (Hardanger Ale) [3:20]); Suite No. 5: Trolltonar (Troll Tunes) [9:54] (No. 70: Garsvoren dansar (The Brownie dancing) [2:11];  No. 72: Tussmyrke (Twilight) [1:46]; No. 75: Domedag (Doomsday) [5:56])
The Royal Norwegian Navy Band/Bjarte Engeset
rec. Tønsberg Domkirke, Tønsberg, Norway, 12-16 November 2007
NAXOS 8.572095 [65:14]
Experience Classicsonline

In 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.
 
This 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.
 
Geirr 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.
 
As 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 di Soffiatori (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 and it marches all right – but with a dancing quality. The rhythm is the characteristic Halling. The concluding Andante is 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.
 
The March of Honour 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.
 
The 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 prize winner, a swinging and, towards the end, almost orgiastic piece. In The Old Mill on the Brook one can hear the wheel of the mill moving round for a few moments. The first prize winner, the Sinfonietta di Soffiatori, is certainly innovative with a springar – a common Norwegian dance – dominating the second movement. The Fanfara funebre is characterised by insistent drums.
 
The Hundrad Hardingtonar 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 and 1 & 4). The wind versions are unavoidably more straightforward and self-assertive but they are certainly entertaining. With playing of the calibre of The Royal Norwegian Navy Band they should be excellent additions to the band repertoire.
 
This 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.
 
The cover painting is part of a larger watercolour by Gyri Tveitt, Geirr’s and Tullemor’s daughter. It is entitled Hymn to Freedom 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.
 
Wind 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.
 
Göran Forsling
 

 


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