two musicians that are not just aware of the tradition of their respective instruments and folk music of the region, but who actively seek to help keep the tradition alive, and as such it is highly recommended.
ECM 2762 / 484 1962
Nils Økland (Hardanger fiddle, violin); Sigbjørn Apeland (harmonium)
Recorded January – March 2021, ABC Studio, Etne
This beautifully evocative music for fiddle and harmonium comes from a longstanding musical relationship between Økland and Apeland that goes back more than thirty years. Much of the inspiration for the music is related to the region in Western Norway where the two musicians grew up.
The music has been painstakingly collected by Sigbjørn Apeland, often from local singers, as well as transcriptions and archive recordings. The music is detailed and remarkably varied with Økland and Apeland conjuring many different sounds, performance dynamics and textures from the Hardanger fiddle and harmonium.
At times it can be difficult to discern who is playing which melody as the contrapuntal lines merge into what can only be described a glorious marriage of strings and the air vibrating the reeds within the harmonium or ‘pump organ’ as it sometimes referred.
The traditional material sourced, as is so often the case, has a timeless quality that is quite mesmerising. ‘O du min Immanual’ received two performances and are quite different readings of this traditional piece and impossible to pick one over the other.
Some of these melodies and traditional compositions have a a beauty and life of their own that the passing of time will be unable to diminish. This is particularly true of ‘Se solens skjønne lys og prakt’ which has had me reaching for the repeat button whenever I have listened to the album.
The interplay and empathy between Økland and Apeland is staggering, and the music all the more moving for it. Equally as touching and engaging is ‘Hvor er det godt å lande’ in which the exchanges between the instruments in passing the melodies from one to the other is fascinating.
As well as the traditional pieces there are also compositions and improvisations by the duo that also touch on the work of the landscape painter Lars Hertervig. The music by Økland and Apeland was written for the film Lysets Vanvidd, which translates as Frenzy of Light, and it is one of Hertervig’s sketches that provides the cover for the album.
The music is not always confined to a gentle lyricism as the duo also play some improvisations and original compositions that take on a harsher sound world and more dissonant tone, and Apeland acknowledges the work of Fartein Valen (1887-1952) who was the acknowledged as the first Norwegian composer to write atonal music on ‘Valevåg’.
An unusual and beguiling album from two musicians that are not just aware of the tradition of their respective instruments and folk music of the region, but who actively seek to help keep the tradition alive, and as such it is highly recommended.