There are a lot, I mean really a lot, of albums of entirely solo fiddle from Norway and Sweden.
That’s because the essence of traditional fiddling, particularly in Norway, is a solo thing, accompanied only by the player’s foot-tap. Its sound is made the more complete by double-stopping (bowing more than one string at once), so that just one fiddle becomes a polyphonic instrument with drone or harmony. Furthermore in Norway, in addition to as the ordinary violin there’s the hardingfele (Hardanger fiddle), whose sound is enriched by four or five sympathetic strings running under the bridge that resonate to give a silvery reverb, and it has a flatter bridge that allows more than two strings to be bowed at once.
So Norwegian and Swedish solo fiddling has become a high art, with an often complex-sounding repertoire that is nevertheless mostly music for dancing, with a wide range of rhythms and forms.
Mats Edén, from Värmland, in Sweden but close to the Norwegian border, is in both countries a very well-known, admired and respected player and prolific composer. Among much else he’s a founder and continuing member of the very long-established and influential band Groupa.
This solo album, simply self-recorded at home while the Covid pandemic was restricting everyone’s movement, focuses on those of his many compositions that show his strong affinity with Norwegian music, and it’s released on Norwegian musician Tellef Kvifte’s label, Taragot Sounds.
Edén uses four of his fiddles: two four-string ‘ordinary’ fiddles, one of which was made in 1730 in Munich; a Norwegian Hardanger fiddle; and a viola d’amore with five playing strings plus, like the Hardanger, a set of resonating strings running under them. Their playing strings are, as he puts it, made of “nice, hoarse gut”. Accompanied only by his foot-tap, the sound is rich and muscular.
There are polskas, a polka, a march, a waltz and several of the very characteristically Norwegian hallings, including “Krafthalling” that he first recorded with Groupa and Lena Willemark on their great 1990 album Månskratt, and “Dimma” that first appeared on Groupa’s 2014 Silent Folk.
These are sometimes complicated-appearing tunes melodically and rhythmically, but he plays them with great verve and dance-impelling swing. It’s music created by a master, in the continuing tradition.
Find the artist online
A 2016 interview with Mats Edén by Maria Ezzitouni
RootsWorld's Kitchen Concert with Mats Edén
Groupa - Silent Folk
Mats Edén and Stefan Klaverdal - annual growth rings