Photo: Gyri Tveitt

Geirr Tveitt - Biography

The name Geirr Tveitt is inextricably linked with the orchestral works "One Hundred Folk Songs". Alluding to his roots in Hardanger and the rich folk music tradition found there, he says: "If a leaf grows on a birch tree, it necessarily becomes a birch leaf".

Geirr Tveitt (1908-1981) was born in Bergen where his father was a teacher. He spent his early school years in Drammen, where he also received piano training. Holidays, however, were spent at the family farm in Hardanger. By the age of seventeen Tveitt had already begun notation of folk music; a task that he concentrated on more seriously after moving to the farm in 1942.

Geirr Tveitt received his musical education abroad at the State Academy in Leipzig. Upon completion of four years of study in composition, theory and piano, he studied French music and traveled to Paris. His meeting with French Impressionism was to play a significant role in his further development as a composer, and his natural talent for timbre and color was unfolded. The French influence can be heard in the orchestral suites "A Hundred Folk Tunes". These pieces, as well as his arrangements for piano, can be viewed as practical applications of his work within music theory published as "Tonalitätstheorie des parallellen Leittonsystems" (1937). By virtue of his intimate knowledge of tonality in Norwegian folk music, coupled with his art of instrumentation, Tveitt has been able to raise the simple folk melody to the concert hall podium - without losing the inherent characteristics of the art of this folk music.

Unfortunately, all of the authentic folk music notations recorded by Tveitt were destroyed in a tragic fire at the farm in 1970. The greater part of the manuscripts for his compositions was also lost. This catastrophe is represented in the fact that only a few of his more than 300 compositions have been published to date. Extensive efforts have been made since the composer's death to assemble copies of his works from private sources and institutions. It has also been possible to reconstruct some of the works, so that there are now approximately 90 works available.

Translation: Palmyre Pierroux
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