Tre Nyhus, Tre Nyhus (Grappa Musikkforlagas, 2005)

Sven Nyhus is a veteran folk fiddler from the Rorøs region of Norway. His daughters Åshild (fiddle, viola) and Ingfrid (piano and zither) have both become accomplished folk and classical musicians in their own rights as well. While Sven has always made a point of playing his music with his daughters since they were very small, the trio have only recently started performing publicly as a group. Tre Nyhus, recorded for the Grappa label, is their debut CD. The disc contains a series of instrumentals gleaned from the vast Rorøs tradition and from Sven Nyhus' own original compositions. Ingfrid's piano provides an element of distinction to the Tre Nyhus sound, as very few traditional Norwegian outfits use this instrument for accompaniment. The arrangements often sound classical as a result, which may please some listeners a lot but others less so. Otherwise, Tre Nhyus is a consistent collection of nicely played traditional Scandinavian fiddle tunes, and holds its own among other similar CDs.

Norway and Sweden share many cultural elements, including folk music traditions, although outside of the waltz the names change between the two countries. For example, the Norwegian pols is equivalent to the Swedish polska, a 3/4 tune played with emphasis on the first and third beats in the measure. Each village or region has a distinctive style of pols that is performed with a specific dance, and the Rorøs pols is generally played in a particularly fast and energetic manner. Similarly, the Norwegian reinlender and the Swedish schottis derive from the Scottish hornpipe, but were brought to Scandinavia through German fiddle traditions. Norway's gÅnglÅt and Sweden's snoa are quick 2/4 tunes played just a bit more slowly than polkas. On this disc, the Nyhuses play all these types of tunes, although the Rorøs pols dominates.

Tre Nyhus spans the history of the Nyhus family as folk fiddlers, beginning with two tunes dating back to the 19th century and the founder of the family's fiddling tradition, Ole Henriksen Sulhus. The second tune, a pols called "Siste leken Sulhusgubben spella," comes from him, while the opening waltz "Sulhus-Ragnhild" comes from his daughter Ragnhild. The disc continues with tunes Sven Nyhus picked up on his travels, along with ones popularized by his grandfather and his father. In addition, the three Nyhuses perform several tunes, which Sven composed at various points during his life. The most intriguing of these is "Bachpolsen," based on Bach's "Suite No. 2 in B minor," which the elder Nyhus was commissioned to compose for the Bach jubillee in 1985. To complete the historical link from one generation to the next, the disc finishes with a reinlender Sven composed for Åshild and a polka he composed for Ingfrid.

First and foremost, Tre Nyhus is a collection of fiddle tunes from in and around the region of Rorøs in Norway. The CD will definitely appeal to performers in spelmanslags, or fiddlers' groups, who are looking for Norwegian tunes to perform for dances or for pleasure. People who like to dance Norwegian will like a few of these tunes as well, especially the spirited polses "Ha Do Sjitt NÅ Gammal Kjerring," from Brekken, and "Leken Hass Peder Nyhus," the favorite tune of Sven's late father. A few of these tunes have unconventional arrangements, though, due primarily to the inclusion of the piano. The pols "Huldresving" and the reinlenders "Jämtlandsnatt" and "Varme Glør" are arranged and performed beautifully from a listener's perspective, but the piano definitely changes the feel of the tune in a way that dancers might take time adjusting to. Given that potential caveat with some listeners, the three Nyhuses perform at the highest level of musicianship throughout the disc. The tunes are all good, and the liberties the Nyhuses take with some of the arrangements do enhance the sound of the album and make for a compelling listen. I don't think Tre Nyhus will turn people who've never heard traditional Scandinavian music into full-fledged converts, but any fan of Nordic fiddles will enjoy listening to this disc.

[Scott Gianelli]