‘Spotlight on Norway’: Solo Hardanger fiddle – traditional Norwegian folk music doesn’t get any purer than this. Synnøve S. Bjørset is one of the style’s most vital voices.
Mention traditional Norwegian folk music and it’s very likely that the first instrument many associate with this genre is the Hardanger fiddle. In the hands of a master, it lends a unique tonal character to the folk tradition. And a master is just what Synnøve Bjørset is. Her technical skills and her dynamic control, coupled with an innovative sense of expression, is indication that the future of traditional Norwegian folk music is in good hands, indeed.
Bjørset is not confined to performing solely for a domestic audience - over the last eight years she has toured extensively around the world. In addition to her focus on a traditional solo repertoire from the Sunnfjord and Sogn regions, Bjørset is also an active member of such acclaimed ensembles as Greatest Girls of Norway and Majorstuen.
Says Bjørset: ‘At first, what fascinated me was the sound, the timbre of the Hardanger Fiddle: rough, crisp and porous, resonant and rich in harmonics, defiant and vulnerable. Then I became captivated by the great tunes. Already epic in themselves, they must be made even greater. Later I found other, smaller tunes, and with them the joy of discovering greatness in little things.’
Bjørset has studied at the Norwegian State Academy of Music and drawn inspiration from some of the best-known and most outstanding fiddlers in the country, such as Håkon Høgemo. By working with and specializing in historical archive recordings she has developed a distinctive repertoire based on a minimalistic melodic material. March 2009 saw the release of Bjørset’s latest solo outing, ‘Slåttar’ - a tasteful, melodious collection of little-known tunes and reinterpretations of familiar standards. The traditional tunes are rooted in the fjord and mountain regions of Sunnfjord, Sogn and Valdres; areas where dance tunes and airs go hand in hand. Many of the tunes are based on simple melodic structures, which Bjørset attacks with her own brand of ferocious Hardanger fiddle minimalism. Building on archived transcripts and recordings, she has developed a uniquely individual style that accentuates the rhythmic nuances of the music.
September 2009 saw Bjørset playing a set of superb solo performances at Oslo’s Folkelarm showcase festival in front of a delegation of international music industry execs which in turn has led to a number of future appearances abroad.