Annbjorg Lien, Prisme (Shanachie, 1997)

This CD, recorded in July of 1996, documents the time when Norwegian hardangar fiddler (and classical violinist) Annbjorg Lien, found her own voice. Eleven of thirteen tracks are original compositions; the remaining two are adaptations of traditional melodies from Scandinavia. The composing is sensitive to the Norwegian traditions upon which it is based, but also is innovative, personal, and emotionally charged. Annbjorg Lien achieves this delicate balancing act with grace and spirit on Prisme.

Supporting Lien's hardangar and keyed-fiddle work on this collection are some of the brightest luminaries of the new Scandinavian folk movement, notably Vasen‚s Mikael Marin on viola and Roger Tallroth on guitars and bouzoukis, along with Bjorn Ole Rasch on keyboards, Rune Arnesen on percussion, and Hans Fredrik Jacobsen on various folk instruments. These musicians clearly connected with Lien's vision of a new sound based firmly in Scandinavian instrumental traditions; the interplay is sometimes uncannily intuitive - particulary on the part of Tallroth and Arnesen, who sometimes threaten to upstage Lien's brilliant fiddling.

The tracks are distinctive and unique enough to warrant a quick run-down of the high points (an oxymoron, to run down the high points?): polska and waltz rhythms, very important in Norwegian traditions, are amply represented by"Fonix,""Cantabile,""Aprilbarnet," and the key-shifting"Floteren." More adventurous incorporation of Asian and Irish influences are explored in the title tune,"Vivandre," and the absolutely brilliant composition"Korstog," that is destined to become a standard in Scandinavian music 200 years from now. A lovely, light and fluttery springar,"Hauk," and the gorgeous concluding air,"Ringen," are icing on the cake.

In the context of the trajectory of Annbjorg Lien's still-developing career, indeed, this collection shows her developing a voice, as an instrumentalist and composer, more personal and focused than her contributions to the ensemble, Bukkene Bruse, and less self-indulgent than the more-recent Baba Yaga. Prisme documents a very special place in the development of an artist who is sure to have a continued impact upon the Scandinavian new folk movement for years to come. This CD also happens to be very satisfying to just listen to, either in the background, or as a focus for analysis and thought. It is a genuine work of art.

[Gary H. Wikfors]