Mats Berglund Trio,
Mats Berglund Trio
(GIGA Folkmusik, 2003)

Mats Berglund grew up in Varmland, Sweden, not far from the Norwegian border. A fan of the Rolling Stones, he also played fiddle and started investigating Swedish traditional music. As far back as the 1970s, he was playing at gatherings of folk musicians. Today, he still lives in Varmland and teaches music there. The trio on this album came together at the last minute to fill in at the 1999 Euromusica in Italy. Berglund asked two of his students, Leo Svensson and Andreas Ralsgard, to help him out. Luckily, it worked, and what could have been a one-off group proved to have a longer life.

Enhanced by Giga's usual extensive liner notes, this CD is a mixture of traditional music from the Swedish and Norwegian sides of the Varmland border, including a region known as Finnskogen. The emphasis is on basic dance tunes, such as polskas, reinlenders and waltzes. The local polska of the Finnskogen region is played with a so-called "short third" -- this means that the polska's three-beat rhythm is emphasized on the first and second beats. This older rhythm (and the tunes associated with it) had almost died out because of a more popular polska rhythm emphasizing the first and third beats. With the help of some dancers who remembered the short third, Berglund and his associates were able to revive the old tunes and the Finnskogen polska. There is a generous amount of this regional music on the disc.

Berglund plays fiddle, accordion and the harjedalspipa, an old type of flute that he had a hand in reviving. Svensson plays cello and Ralsgard the soprano sax and flute. Some solo tracks are scattered throughout the trio settings. Fans of groups like Groupa and Harv will recognize some of the melodies that appear here, such as "Rejlander Efter Gravols-Halvar." The dance tunes cover a range of moods. The dissonant sounds that are a hallmark of Nordic music can be found in tracks such as solo cello number "Polska Efter Niklas-Larsson," where Svensson sounds as if he is wrestling with the tune. Then there is the charming "Moffarn Ar Ond (Granddad Is Angry)," which seeks to recapture the sound of a small dance orchestra at the turn of the 20th century. An unusual track is "Polska Efter Anders Olsson/Halling Efter Per Myhr," which makes a medley of the polska and halling dances. Scattered among the dance tunes is the occasional hymn ("Psalm Fran Agder/Polska Efter Jon Andersson") or spiritual song ("Andlig Visa Efter Olaf Jonsson").

Like many Giga albums, this is a slightly esoteric disc to be beloved by students of Nordic folk more than the regular album-buying public. But also like many Giga albums, this is a winner for people who love this kind of music.

- Rambles
written by Jennifer Hanson
published 20 December 2003