Getting acquainted with the Hardanger fiddle August 14th, 2016

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Another treat from my visit to Oslo this summer was a delightful demonstration of folk dancing accompanied by traditional Norwegian fiddle-playing at the Norsk Folkemuseum.

Having recently started learning to play the fiddle myself, I have become fascinated by the Hardanger fiddle, or hardingfele, which is a thing of stunning beauty, as well as, apparently, being very difficult to learn to play (and quite unlike a regular violin). The women pictured above took turns playing (both expertly) while the other performed a traditional dance with the young man in the trio, who also played two other instruments while the ladies danced.

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The hardingfele is usually ornately decorated, with mother of pearl inlay on the fingerboard and tailpiece and black ink designs on the body. In addition to the usual four strings of a violin, there are four or five strings underneath, which resonate in sympathy with the top strings. Many different tunings are used, depending on the region and the requirements of the piece. Much of Grieg’s music is infused with elements of these folk tunes, and according to Wikipedia (my main source of information so far), Grieg wrote pieces for the hardingfele as part of the score for his Peer Gynt suite.

I wasn’t quick enough to capture the mini-presentation on the hardingfele the day I was there, but, fortunately, someone filmed the same young woman demonstrating this remarkable instrument on another occasion, and posted it on YouTube. I invite you to take a look here.

 

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