Møldestad, Mjølsnes, Høgemo - Gamaltnymalt
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cd cover Møldestad, Mjølsnes, Høgemo
NORCD (www.norcd.no)

The word "gamaltnymalt" doesn't quite translate from Norwegian into English, but it does imply a hybrid of old and new elements. Three master fiddlers from Western Norway - Håkon Høgemo , Sigrid Møldestad , and Einar Mjølsnes - all play an instrument unique to Norway, the hardanger fiddle. Traditionally dances, weddings and festive formal occasions in rural Norwegian villages required the presence of at least one hardanger fiddler, so the music played on the instrument tends to be very elaborate, requiring a virtuoso to perform the most beloved traditional pieces.

Norwegian radio has showcased the best folk musicians since the beginning of radio broadcasting. Many years ago, three iconic fiddlers, Sigbjørn Bernhoft Osa, Eivind Groven and Alfred Maurstad, formed a trio to play for the radio. This historical group inspired the formation of Gamaltnymalt.

The new trio rehearses at the folk music collection of the University of Bergen. Nearby there is a rock club called "Garage," which apparently inspired the cover photo of the CD. The three fiddlers stand stiffly in dark glasses and black suits, which might also be a message aimed at the grumpy traditionalists who get upset when the Queen of Norway wears sunglasses with her traditional folk costume. This is a country where about 60% of the adult population owns a folk costume from their home valley, and proudly wears it in public on independence day!

The "new" part of Gamaltnymalt starts with the modern design of the 10 string fiddles they play on this CD. They were specially constructed with 5 upper strings and 5 drone strings (the traditional hardanger fiddle has only 4). This gives each player the option of playing in a lower range, like a viola.

Any listener new to the hardanger sound will have a hard time understanding how so much sound can come out of only 3 fiddles. It does sound like a small orchestra. Gamaltnymalt's gift is teasing a dense layer of sound out of the drone strings, to suspend the melodic elements that wander all across the entire soprano-alto range of the upper bowed strings.

To get the full effect of what is happening, listen to the opening track "Nygamaltgamaltnygamaltgaltemylt... Å Fyy!" . Powerful chords announce the entrance of the trio, then morph into a trilled ornamentation that slides down into a simple dance tune intro. Then three fiddles play, freely trading the high, middle and low supporting parts, until a huge polyphonic swirl fills the air space. It seems impossible it is only three fiddles.

"Kilden," takes a very different approach, as one fiddle plays a haunting melody over the drones of the other two. A dramatic and dense piece, this moody composition might be better in a film score than on a dance floor.

The settings here are never radical, and do tend to be more true to traditional source music than many groups in the 'New Nordic Folk' world. You won't hear any trumpets, saxophones, synthesizers, or drums, just a luscious blending of pure string sound with a Norwegian accent.
Each of the musicians in Gamaltnymalt is also an honored solo performer. Håkon Høgemo has twice been honored with the top prize for folk fiddling in Norway, and won a Norwegian Grammy for his solo CD in 2003. Sigrid Møldestad is a versatile and skilled fiddler who has also been acclaimed as a vocalist and cabaret artist. Einar Mjølsnes is affiliated with the Arne Bjørndal's Folk Music Collection, Univ. of Bergen. There he is involved in research, protection, and the dissemination of folk tradition.

This recording will appeal to fiddle fans, world music explorers, and chamber/classical music lovers who enjoy the kind of traditional references that appeared in the popular "Appalachian Waltz" recording created in 1996 by American fiddler Mark O'Conner with cellist Yo Yo Ma and bassist Edgar Myer.

Gamaltnymalt was awarded a Spellemannspris, Norway's "Grammy" award, for best traditional CD in 2005. - Patrice George

CD available from cdRoots

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