Ulf Störling with Roland Keijser
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Ulf Störling with Roland Keijser
Kringliga Låtar (Twisted Tunes)
Hurv (www.hurv.com)

cd cover The province of Hälsingland, Sweden has always been an area known for its great fiddlers. Studying the record releases from this area during the last 15 years, we discover only a few full albums with solo fiddlers in the forefront. Considering the number of great fiddlers in the province, this is surprising. Perhaps the explanation is that a lot of the activity takes place in larger groups, such as spelmanslag's (groups of 5-50 fiddlers.)

Ulf Störling is one of Sweden's most regarded folk musicians, although he is not often seen in the limelight. He is best known for his ability to create compelling harmonies. On this CD, Störling has invited clarinet virtuoso Roland Keijser to play on five tracks, and their interplay is flowing and sensitive.

He is a violin-maker by profession, and uses two of his own instruments on this recording. One is strung with the type of gut strings used by Swedish fiddlers up until the early 20th century.

This idea of going back to the roots does not only apply to Störling's choice of strings, but also to his style of playing. When he learned to play he visited Jonas Olsson, an old fiddler who used a bowing technique called "double bowing." I quote producer Anders Rosén's notes for the recording: "This bowing gives a peculiar rhythmic effect to the playing: in sequences of quavers each note is anticipated slightly, by a semi-quaver or shorter at the same time as the note is swelled." On Kringliga Låtar we get to hear this fascinating technique on a handful of tunes. Störling uses ornaments rather sparsely compared to many other Swedish fiddlers. This projects the distinctive, 16th-note polska melodies. It is easy to understand why Störling is so highly regarded. He does not just play the tunes, he knows these tunes in and out. Each one evokes special feelings. Listen to track number three, and sense the strong pride it beams forth. The tunes on troll tuning (AEAC#) all sound very playful and bewitching.

All 23 tracks on this CD are from the playing of the legendary fiddler Snickar-Erik Olsson and written down in 1899. The idea of only playing tunes after one fiddler is interesting. It gives a homogeneous and coherent feel to the CD, but at the same time we don't get to hear all of Störling's qualities. For those who enjoy solo fiddling from Scandinavia, this is a gem. You get to hear brilliant fiddling anchored to the traditions of southern Hälsingland, and rare tunes with quirky melodies. - Staffan Jonsson

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