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Grieg: Peer Gynt (Arr. violin and orch)

Ragnhild Hemsing (violin, hardanger fiddle); Trondheim Soloists (Berlin Classics)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Peer Gynt (arr. Tormod Tvete Vik)
Ragnhild Hemsing (violin, hardanger fiddle); Trondheim Soloists
Berlin Classics 0302646BC   48:15 mins

The Hemsing sisters from the folk-rich Valdres district of Norway have pursued interesting parallel careers. Eldbjörg has launched a bid for international concert-circuit stardom, while Ragnhild fuses classical and folk tradition, or lets them co-exist alongside each other, by playing both the violin and the Hardanger fiddle. Though nothing is quite as Grieg conceived it, that interchange makes for marvellous programming of music connected with his score for Ibsen’s Peer Gynt here.

There’s a complexity and sometimes a traditional fiddlyness (pun not intended, but I’ll go with it) to Norway’s national instrument, the five understrings of its nine giving sympathetic resonance, that doesn’t always suit Grieg’s essential simplicity: not, perhaps, given the pure original flute of ‘Morning’, or the simple sustained strings of ‘Ase’s Death’. The preceding improvisations, though, are wondrous, and other numbers arranged by Tormod Tvete Vik for Hemsing and the excellent Trondheim strings hit a surprising bullseye. If you sometimes feel that the folk instrument approaches the grate of bagpipes, then the Solveig songs as spun so beautifully on contemporary violin will soothe you. And it’s good to hear a perfect fit in the wedding dances; one was added as an arrangement of a Grieg piano piece, the other two appear unaccompanied in the original.

David Nice

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