Review of CD of Nils Henrik Asheim playing the Stavanger Concert Hall organ: LAWO Classics, LWC 1151, 2018

This CD is the first made of the new Ryde & Berg organ in the Stavanger concert hall. It is a CD for lovers of tone and colour and quite unlike the run-of-the-mill organ CD. The two works from two Norwegian composers complement each other perfectly. Most will be familiar with the style of Grieg but many will not have heard of Geirr Tveitt (1908-1981). The lyricism of the folk melodies of both composers is set against often dark and brooding progressions, which allow a range of registrations to be demonstrated.

On this CD Nils Henrik Asheim has clearly asserted himself as a formidable force in the art of organ transcription. Grieg’s piano piece Ballade in G Minor is a set of variations of a relentlessly poignant melody which one would not think could be arranged for organ but Asheim’s arrangement for the Stavanger organ brings it a new dimension. Registrations have been carefully chosen to enhance the mood of the work and the quality of playing is remarkable. Grieg would surely have approved. I particularly liked the large tonal range and the clean sounds that emerge from the bass register. The acoustic of the hall and the two-second reverberation are ideal for bringing out the articulation of the toccata-like passages.

By contrast the selection of pieces by Geirr Tveitt shows off Nils’ choice of registration admirably. In Flyteljod (Flute Air) the pipes seem to breathe, whilst Folgafodne fortél ingjenting (Folgefonna Glacier Keeps its Secrets) is like a rush of hot air with an ethereal melodic overlay. All of Tveitt’s pieces are selections from his Hundred Hardanger Tunes and are all approachable from a listening point of view. I felt at times that I was transported to the depths of the Hardanger fjord with all its majesty and beauty.

I recommend this CD as a valuable addition to any organist’s audio library.

John Bartlett