In 1884 Edvard Grieg was commissioned to write music for Ludvig Holberg’s 200th anniversary. Since Holberg lived in the Baroque era, Grieg modelled his composition on the baroque suite, and entitled the work From the Time of Holberg. The music was first and foremost a modern interpretation of the stylised dances of the baroque rather than a faithful reproduction. The lively, atmospheric music with catchy tunes was received with great enthusiasm. The success inspired Grieg to rework the piece for string orchestra immediately afterwards. This sparkling, effervescent version has become one of the most performed in the string orchestra repertoire and one of Grieg’s best known musical visiting cards.
Lasse Thoresen has for many years found inspiration in both the newest musical experimentation and in Norwegian folk music, and has successfully combined the two in a single expression. The success of the combination may be ascribed to the characteristic notes, common to both traditions, outside the semitone-based scales of art music. Sprang was the result of a close study of the folk music of Valdres, which included a stay with the Hemsing family, who are active folk musicians. The first movement is inspired by the typically uneven beat of the Valdres springar. The second movement derives its inspiration from a halling, this time concentrating on the wild bowing, which seems to follow its own rhythm independently of the music. The third is based on a tune describing a supernatural being, the hulder, using a special tuning of the fiddle. The quirky rhythms and unusual intonation are concentrated and developed in the string ensemble. The piece is also to a great degree inspired by the vital musical energy found in the performances of the Hemsing sisters and the Trondheim Soloists.
Geirr Tveitt is another composer who was interested in Norwegian folk music as raw material for his compositions. He collected a large number of folk tunes from his local area in Hardanger, and also composed many tunes inspired by folk music. At the same time he was genuinely cosmopolitan, having received his training in Berlin and Paris and travelled extensively. In his colourful image-evoking orchestral works he revealed his brilliance as an orchestral composer. The lush images he created in chamber format are no less apt. In these ‘travelogues’, originally composed for string quartet, he described through eight movements landscapes and moods from the European and African sides of the Mediterranean, whether or not he had actually experienced them. The selected three movements, The Mediterranean, Sicily and Tripoli present a short version of this wide view.
Gjermund Larsen composed his Osa Suite as a commission in 2010 for the double anniversary of Ole Bull (200 years) and Sigbjørn Bernhoft Osa (100 years). The international violin virtuoso Bull was interested in his Norwegian roots. He was one of the first composer-performers to take the initiative to lift the best of Norwegian folk music on to the concert stage, not least in the case of the ‘Miller’s Lad’, Torgeir Augundsson. Ole Bull also had a vision of an academy for Norwegian folk music. That vision was realised by the nationally celebrated Hardanger fiddler Sigbjørn Bernhoft Osa when he established the Ole Bull Academy at Voss in 1976. The Larsen brothers, soloists at this concert, both studied at the Ole Bull Academy.
The first movement, Bull-sull (sull means lullaby), is based on Ole Bull’s composition ‘I ensomme stunde’, often known as ‘La Mélancolie’. The next movement, ‘Osa-mannen’, is a Hardanger fiddle portrait of Sigbjørn Bernhoft Osa himself. After a short intermezzo for the two soloists alone, the piece concludes with the movement ‘Trønderbarokk’ (Trondheim Baroque), a playful folk/ Baroque crossover. The music is to a great degree based on the way the Larsen brothers play together and, like Thoresen, is inspired by the characteristically vibrant performance style of the Trondheim Soloists.
Text: Morten Eide Pedersen
English text: Roger Martin