Trio Hardanger,
Trio Hardanger
(Lindberg Lyd, 2003)

The Hardanger fiddle or hardingfele is native to southwestern Norway. In addition to the normal set of strings, the Hardanger fiddle has a set of drone strings that resonate as the other strings are bowed. The result is an unearthly, almost trance-inducing sound. Some pieces and tunings are even associated with the devil or trolls, to add to their quality of being not quite of this world. In more contemporary terms, this music can resemble minimalism with its repetitive lines and small changes causing a piece to unexpectedly evolve in a different direction.

Trio Hardanger is a group of three Hardanger fiddlers. They have united to produce an album of tunes associated with the Hardanger master Halldor Meland (1884-1972). Most of the tracks on this album are solos, but on four cuts the three musicians play together. This adds further layers of complexity to the music, almost as if it is echoing back from the landscape. The fiddlers are Knut Hamre, Ase Teigland and Frank Rolland. Hamre has been involved in a variety of musical projects, including his ambient album with American guitarist Steve Tibbetts. Hamre also taught both Teigland and Rolland when they were starting out. Of the solo tracks, Hamre plays on five, and Teigland and Rolland on six apiece.

Some of the pieces on this album were composed by Meland and others are traditional tunes played in his manner. The members of Trio Hardanger worked from Meland's recordings, manuscripts and interpretations from other fiddlers who learned from Meland when arranging these pieces. Meland's pieces are technically challenging but their subtleties will probably be lost on casual listeners. One does not have to be familiar with the Hardanger fiddle, however, to be impressed with the spare clarity of the playing. Some tracks are pensive and drifting, such as Hamre's performance of "Lengt," a piece meant to be listened to (as opposed to dance music). Most of the tracks are dances such as springars or processional wedding marches. Although the idea of dance music summons up an image of fun and frolic, these dances often have a pensive or bittersweet air, which is enhanced by the tunings of the Hardanger fiddle. These tunings are modal or emphasize minor keys, in comparison to the major keys found in much western music. More information about the pieces can be found on Lindberg Lyd's website, and tunings are given in the liner notes.

The Hardanger fiddle and its music are considered Norwegian national treasures, and rightly so. Trio Hardanger gives an introduction to the cream of this music. To those past the need of introductions, this CD will be even more entrancing.

- Rambles
written by Jennifer Hanson
published 13 March 2004