The Holberg Suite occupies a unique position in Grieg’s output and an unusual place in Norwegian music history. Holberg Variations are three very different approaches to this small piece of Norway. The ensemble 1B1 have teamed up with jazz musician and composer Erlend Skomsvoll and Norway’s most exciting pianist Christian Ihle Hadland, in a tribute to Edvard Grieg. Launched with a concert 13. August at the Stavanger International Chamber Music Festival.
Grieg’s stylistic frolic
Several composers have written music within an idiom from earlier times. Grieg has a masterly hand with the five stylized dance movements from the Baroque era – and occasionally adds a touch of Norway too. History relates that Grieg himself often referred to the suite as a ‘periwig piece’. Nevertheless, under the wig there is room for personal expression, and folkmusic-like means of expression are lingering in the harmony.
Three times Holberg
Christian Ihle Hadland conjures up a multitude of rhythmic and timbral nuances, lifting the original Holberg Suite into European piano tradition. Then 22 string players go at it; as if a herd of foals are emitted to the fields on a spring day – unstoppable and joyful. One thing is the sound of string instruments, but 1B1 also lets experience in early music shine through as they forms Grieg’s elegant themes.
Orchestra improvising with jazz musician?
It’s these iconic themes and motives from Grieg’s hand which Erlend Skomsvoll assumes when he leads the string orchestra in an improvisational game. The motives gets transformed into pulsating passages or lingering textures. With Skomsvoll as the pilot, the young string players follow. Improvisation requires a kind of immediate responsiveness which certainly is not taught at the conservatories. This is where the unique flexibility of 1B1 kicks in – just the kind of musical challenge and exploration the orchestra search for in absolutely everything they do. Orchestra and impro versions are also available on 180g vinyl PSLP1332