An ensemble with a unique and delicious accent.
Andrew Mellor 2010-08-02
In an age of increasing orchestral globalisation, The Trondheim Soloists are known for playing in a distinctly energetic and ‘open air’ style that’s tempting to label as characteristically Norwegian.
In actual fact, that label isn’t as tenuous as it might seem. Much of the ensemble’s resonant and rustic playing is influenced by Trondheim’s position at the heart of Norway’s folk-fiddle scene; TTS was founded by a musician keen to cultivate a Nordic playing style connected to indigenous mountain music.
This album exploits that – travelling from small-c ‘classical’ music influenced by the folk tradition to music played by and conceived for folk instruments but cast with string orchestra backing.
In the former camp, Grieg’s Holberg Suite and Two Nordic Melodies are played delightfully – full of shape and subtlety, unhurried but with an unerring sense of direction. There’s minimal vibrato in the string sound and a general feeling of lightness, but textures are varied nonetheless.
The surround-sound (on audio-only Blu-ray) is particularly impressive when arpeggios cross from section to section in the Holberg’s Prelude. Be warned though: if you’re listening to those passages in standard stereo, you might crave something smoother.
The Suite for Nyckelharpa and String Orchestra titled Abrégé was originally conceived for a folk band by its soloist Emilia Amper and subsequently orchestrated by a TTS violinist. The nyckelharpa is actually of Swedish descent – an under-arm fiddle with a chromatic keyboard whose zingy, eastern-inflected tones are exposed best in the infectious five-in-a-bar Balkanpolskan.
Throughout the Suite, energetic Celtic-inflected folk structures are raised beyond the level of pseudo-Riverdance by deft instrumentation, sleek harmonies (including deliciously scrunching diminished chords) and playing that’s spirited but impeccably tidy.
Gjermund Larsen’s Folk Suite for Fiddle and Strings is less up-front than its companion pieces; its passacaglia-like structures can take a while to get going. But they burst into moments of inspiration on a few occasions – notably in the Grappelli-meets-Prokofiev reel of the final movement, inspired by the ambience of TTS’s local pub.
The players tap into its natural rhythms and momentum no less than you’d hope. “Music is impulsive, sociable and fun,” they seem to be saying – here as much as in the Grieg. That, in part, is what gives this ensemble its unique and delicious accent.