Monday, August 29, 2016

Tveitt's "Hundred Hardanger Tunes"

Hans Gude, "From Hardanger" (1847)
This year I've been writing informally about  favorite music, with the theme "A Year's Music." I think I'll drop the theme from the title of these posts and simply continue to share music that I've loved for a long time, or love anew.

When I'm home, I like to turn on Pandora radio. The Alan Hovhaness station is a favorite, featuring a variety of pieces by that composer, Arvo Part, Ralph Vaughan Williams, David Diamond, Mendelssohn, Prokofiev, Ligeti, and others. Sometimes, as the music plays, I'll write down an unfamiliar composer and selection for later investigation. This summer, one such piece was a song from A Hundred Folk Tunes from Hardanger by Geirr Tveitt.

I'd not heard of that composer (1908-1981) but quickly learned that he is a key figure in Norwegian music. Hardanger, in turn, is a western Norwegian district where the Hardangerfjord is located. Like Ralph Vaughan Williams, Tveitt was an eager collector of folk music. Going beyond RVW, who visited the countryside, Tveitt actually moved to Hardanger in the 1940s, became one of the locals, and died there. Sadly, much of his work was lost in a 1970 fire, including 40 of these hundred tunes. The rest are arranged in orchestral suites: 1 and 2, 4 and 5.

The Wikipedia page for Tveitt has this: "The tunes reflect both profound (in fact) Christian values and a parallel universe dominated by the mysticism of nature itself and not only the worldly, but also nether worldly creatures that inhabit it - according to traditional folklore. The major part of the tunes is directly concerned with Hardanger life, which Tveitt was a part of. In his adaptations, therefore, he sought to bring forth not only the melody itself, but also the atmosphere, mood and scenery in which it belonged. Tveitt utilised his profound knowledge of traditional and avant-garde use of harmony and instruments when he scored the tunes - achieving an individual and recognisable texture."

I purchased the two CDs of the suites, on the Naxos label. The liner notes' author points out that it is not always easy to determine if the melody is a traditional tune or if it is Tveitt's impression of a certain mood. Regardless, it is beautiful music that I'm happy to have discovered this summer!

Here is suite 1: YouTube has selections from some of the other suites as well.

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