(Lindberg Lyd, 2003)
Two musicians, two fiddles, one guitar, one bouzouki, 11 mostly traditional Norwegian tunes. Glimmer begins with this handful of ingredients and proves that good music doesn't need a profusion of elements to be successful. In fact, this CD's success comes from its simplicity. Glimmer is so simple that it is easy to miss the magic in this music with a casual listening. It distills the essential elements of Norwegian traditional music.
The musicians are Sturla Eide Sundli and Andreas Aase. Sundli plays regular and Hardanger fiddles; Aase plays guitar and occasional bouzouki. Two tunes, "Britannia" and "Polska 56401," were composed by Sundli. The setting for the duo's playing is the Sofienberg church in Oslo, a fine, resonant space.
Sundli and Aase play with vigor on these pieces, many of which are traditional dance melodies. The Lyndberg Lyd website has full background on the tunes (brief descriptions of them appear in the liner notes), but footnotes are not necessary. This music is direct and accessible. Aase's guitar playing reminds me of Roger Tallroth's guitar work for Vasen; both play with energy and enthusiasm while getting a ringing, warm tone out of the instrument. Sundli's fiddling is the perfect counterpart to Aase's guitar and together the musicians sweep the cobwebs off the old tunes and make them as vital as contemporary jazz. Some pieces (such as "Meldalsmarsjen," the understated march that closes Glimmer), are mellow, but most of the tunes are lively. One can hear joy in the playing and the simple settings allow the listener to hear the unusual shifts in tempo and tuning that are typical of Nordic music.
This recording is essential for Nordic music fans, but those interested in Celtic music should find plenty to like here as well. As is often the case in Nordic music, a hard-to-describe quality inhabits this music and lends it a Celtic sound. Celtic and Nordic music have a great deal of shared history and similar influences but whatever the reason, this is a good album for Celtic music fans to pick up. In fact, anyone who enjoys well-played instrumental music, particularly in spare settings, would do well to find this album. Lovers of Nordic music will find plenty of enjoyment here, of course, but others may find this a good introduction to the genre.
Glimmer does more than glimmer; it shines with the light of terrific music.