WORKS: Grieg: Holberg Suite; Two Nordic Melodies, Op. 63; Amper: Abrégé – folk suite for nyckelharpa and string orchestra; Larsen: Diplom – folk suite for fiddle and string orchestra
PERFORMER: Geir Inge Lotsberg (violin); Trondheim Soloists/Oyvind Gimse
CATALOGUE NO: 2L-068-SABD
Two more intriguing releases of Norwegian repertoire from the marvellously inventive 2L label. Both offer exceptional recorded sound, with the listener being truly immersed in the music in surround sound. As with earlier 2L sets, there are two discs, one with blu-ray audio, the other a hybrid SACD.
The music of virtuoso violinist and composer Ole Bull will be new to many outside Norway, but he was a major figure in the 19th century. Born in 1810, he was lauded across Europe by figures such as Berlioz, Schumann and Liszt for his ability to combine exceptional technique with emotional insight.
The major works here are Bull’s two violin concertos, which have only recently been rediscovered. Like the works of some other virtuoso performer composers, they are rather episodic in nature, but it is clear that Bull had a keen melodic gift, as well as exceptional mastery of the violin, including four-part writing. Annar Follesø does a sterling job of bringing these works vibrantly to life, with barely a blemish in his beautiful bel canto tone despite the numerous leaps into the stratosphere.
The Norwegian Radio Orchestra gives excellent support under Ole Kristian Ruud, and the only caveat being that there could occasionally be a little more drive. Among the accompanying shorter works, the miniature that opens the set, Saeterjentens Søndag, are especially sublime.
The same could be said of the new disc from the Trondheim Soloists, In Folk Style, though it opens with more familiar fare, in the guise of Grieg’s Holberg Suite and Two Nordic Melodies. As with their stunning Divertimento disc, the Trondheim Soloists possess great energy and a full-blooded sound, though there is no lack of poetry or beauty.
The ‘Air’ of the Holberg Suite might have had a touch more fluidity, but its ‘Rigaudon’ is quite simply joyous, as are the new orchestral folk suites, Diplom and Abrégé. The former features Gjermund Larsen’s fiddle playing, while Abrégé is an arrangement by Johannes Leonard Rusten of pieces by Emilia Amper featuring her on nyckelharpa, a type of fiddle with chromatic keyboard.
Unless you have a pathological aversion to modern folk music, then this is infectious, even if it leaves the Grieg feeling like a distant dream. Christopher Dingle