Geirr TVEITT (1908-1981)
From A Travel Diary – String Quartet (1960) [26:45]
The Household God Op.184 (1956) [16:35]
Septet (1967) [2:18]
Midsummer Eve (1967) [3:08]
Fragaria Vesca
rec. November 2009, Sofienberg kirke, Oslo; String Quartet recorded in Hoff kirke, Østre Toten

Despite his (perhaps) wild-card reputation, no one should fear an encounter with the multifaceted Geirr Tveitt. His chamber music is less well known than his other compositional facets but it is no less communicative and certainly no less warm.
From a Travel Diary is his only extant work for string quartet, an eight movement suite the genesis of which seems to be confusedly shrouded in ambiguity. Despite having read Simax’s booklet notes ten times I’m still not quite sure whether it was written in the early 1920s or 1959-60. I think the former but significant work went on during the latter period for a premiere performance. There’s a version for chamber forces which differs from the one for quartet and one movement, Sirocco, has been restored via the agency of listening to an old recording of the work. As so often in the case of this composer, the score is no longer in existence.
Its themes are broadly Mediterranean and the short movements offer rich rewards for those looking for uncomplicated pictorialism devoid of cheap reportage. Instead we get warmly textured, broadly traditional writing - delightfully and rhythmically vital, occasionally quixotic and marvellously characterised. There is even a flamenco episode as well as mellifluous, hazy repose. The Household God is a different kind of work, not least in terms of instrumentation. It’s a ballet written for octet – string quartet plus a group including oboe and harp – and infuses quite a lot of folk music into its vibrant sixteen minute length. The oboe is especially chirpy, and the freshness of the writing as a whole is a delight, not least the ominous harp writing. This deliberately small-scale ballet score – at a strong remove from his more extensive pre-war works for the stage – is a little compact gem.
There are two brief works to close. The Septet, from 1967, is a sliver two minutes long, and Midsummer’s Eve is another septet from the same year; both are based on the composer’s songs, lilting and attractive.
There’s nothing at all off putting in this selection. On the contrary, it’s full of engaging, light-hearted material. If you’ve not encountered his chamber works you’ll enjoy them. They’ve been excellently performed and recorded, though the timing is short.
Jonathan Woolf

Full of engaging, light-hearted material excellently performed and recorded.