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RYDVALL MJELVA - Vårdroppar 

RYDVALL MJELVA - Vårdroppar 
Heilo HCD7298

Beautiful music on fiddle and nyckelharpa, Vårdroppar is the second recording I have seen from Swedish keyed fiddle player Erik Rydvall and Norwegian Hardanger fiddler Olav Mjelva. A few of the melodies here have known composers, some as recent as the 1960s, but most are lost in the mists of time – except, of course, the two by Rydvall and Mjelva themselves. Rydvall's Morfars Schottis commemorates his maternal grandfather, a relation for which Swedish has a specific word. Although it is a dance form, it isn't really played for dancing: like many dance tunes here, it is evocative and dramatic rather than rhythmic. Mjelva's Hjaltaren was inspired by visits to Shetland, and is one of the more rhythmic pieces on Vårdroppar: it also features on the recent Nordic Fiddlers Bloc album as Mjelva is the Norwegian member of that fiddle trio. Nødåret, on the other hand, shares a name with a Nordic Fiddlers track but is a completely different tune: the one on this CD is a composition by Torbjörn Näsbom after the Swedish famine of 1867 which drove many to emigrate to the USA.

The title tune is one of two here by 20th century nyckelharpa master Eric Sahlström, and describes a sunny spring day which turns to a sudden storm but ends in sunshine again. We've had a few of those this year. Sahlström also wrote the opening Akademipolska, on the occasion of receiving a royal medal for his music: it's another intricate tune, not really intended for dancing, but brilliantly played by this duo. The whirling Norwegian dance Storebråten is one of the most rhythmic pieces here, and it's followed by the delightful slow Polska Efter Dahlfors which really shows off the nyckelharpa's sound. The addition of Hardanger fiddle fills out this piece perfectly: there's no need for additional instruments, and none are used on Vårdroppar. The same big sound comes across on Gro Gudmundsrud and Rotnheims-Knut, both powerful tracks. Four more traditional dance tunes are delicately played by Rydvall and Mjelva before the final bittersweet Västermarnspolska ends this recording with an almost spiritual tone, light yet resonant. Vårdroppar is a great example of Scandinavian music, exquisite from start to finish.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 115 of The Living Tradition magazine.