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Olov Johansson — Storsvarten
(NorthSide NSD6017, 1998, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 1999-01-01

Storsvarten Cover artOlov Johansson plays an ancient instrument called a nyckelharpa, which is related to the violin and hurdy-gurdy, and is traditional is Sweden, though not much played in the current day. It looks rather like a violin with levers sticking out from one side of the neck, and is played with a bow while fingering the levers instead of pressing the fingers directly onto the strings as with a violin. Its sound is unique, something of a cross between a Celtic fiddle and a bagpipe. Olov Johnasson is a master of this instrument, and he exhibits his virtuosity on traditional and original tunes on this disc, playing both solo and in a variety of duet combinations including acoustic guitar, violin, viola, piano, and organ. The pieces range from sad Scandinavian meditations to rousing polskas, and the track with the organ has a very Bach-like arrangement. Throughout is the interesting nyckelharpa, played with great energy. Sometimes you would swear there must be percussion instruments in there, the rhythms are so lively. If you’re looking for something way out of the ordinary, or are curious about Swedish music at all, this disc is a good place to start.

Filed under: Audio, Issue 16, 1998 releases

Related artist(s): Olov Johansson

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