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Rydvall/MjelvaRydvall/Mjelva
Album: Vårdroppar
Label: Heilo/Grappa
Tracks: 15
Website: http://www.rydvallmjelva.com

The music of the Scandinavian countries is very much rooted in the landscape which inspires the musicians who play it. Arve Henrisken describes the musical pairing of Erik Rydvall and Olav Luksengård Mjelva as "They carry within themselves the same radiance and colour that sparkle ourside my window." Classed as two of the leading exponents of their instruments, their debut album was met with critical acclaim and they have now put forth their second offering, Vårdropper.

The opening track, Akademipolska, starts with a lovely arpeggiated introduction that provides a lively accompaniment for an exhuberant and intricate tune. The close harmonies between the two instruments also have a joyful feel to them. The minor central section provides a nice contrast. Written in celebration of Eric Sahlström receiving an award at the Royal Swedish Academy of Music, it definitely has all the excitement and pleasure written into the music. The Polska efter Dahlfors is a completely different style of piece. The contrast between the bowed and plucked lines in the introduction is very effective, leading into a more melancholy tune, with a really singing quality. From a unison tune, the texture grows thicker, expanding the tune both in volume and feeling, going from something slightly sad and mournful to a more empassioned rendition.

Another standout track is Marfars Schottis, written by Erik for his grandfather. The tune has a driving rhythm and some interesting harmonies that really draw in the listener, although I think his grandfather's walks in the garden must have been pretty brisk! Following this is a complete change of character in Nödåret. The lyrics that are set to this most sombre tune tell of a harsh winter and a short summer with poor crops. The opening and closing ponticello (playing close to the bridge) creates a cold and icy sound, perfectly capturing the snow and ice of winter.

The title track Vårdroppar is another lively and intricate tune with flamboyant passagework in close harmony. It's sprinkled with a joy that is infectious and constant changes of light and shade, never staying the same and always changing, like sunlight dancing on the water. The album ends with another slow polska, Västermarnspolskan. The minor key and melodic line have an almost medieval quality. The dissonances as the track comes to a close are mildly unsettling, almost painful as the music dies away.

I did wonder if there would be a lack of depth to the sound with this instrumental pairing but I couldn't have been more wrong. The sound is rich and full, aided by the sympathetic strings that are a prominent feature of both instruments. This has been a really enjoyable album to listen to and I would definitely recommend it, whether you are already a fan of the Scandinavian tradition or have yet to discover it

Nicky Grant