'This present disc is the first complete edition of his music for wind instruments and the result is overwhelming-for two reasons. The music in itself is as personal as anything else Tveitt wrote and the playing by The Royal Norwegian Navy Band is stunning .' MusicWeb International
Geirr Tveitt (1908-1981)
Tveitt in Europe
Spain, 1951. Touring virtuoso Geirr Tveitt, the Norwegian composer-pianist, broadcasts live across Europe, playing, from memory, music by his most famous forebear, Edvard Grieg. The radio announcer introduces the next piece; suddenly Tveitt's mind goes blank! His brain races...all he can remember is roughly how long it should last. He improvises a piece of "Grieg" on the spot. No-one seems to notice.
Grieg's shadow looms large in Tveitt's life. Inescapably so, for a Norwegian, and specifically west Norwegian, gifted as a pianist and as a composer, born in Grieg's native city of Bergen, just a year after the great man's death. Tveitt, however, came to terms with this éminence grise, earning his place, as one of today's leading Norwegian musicians, the pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, suggests, "among the century's greatest composer-pianists, alongside Bartók, Britten, Prokofiev and Rachmaninov".
As an adolescent Tveitt already had a mind of his own to animate his natural ear. Away from home at high school with no piano to practice on, he drew a keyboard on cardboard and used that. The local cinema needed a pianist to accompany silent films, but Tveitt's compositional fantasy sometimes seduced him far from the screen action, and hammering away during the love scenes did not go down too well with the public. When the high school music teacher rubbished everything he wrote, Geirr copied out a Grieg piece and slipped it in with his: to his glee, the teacher could not tell the difference.
Like Grieg, Tveitt studied at the Leipzig Conservatory. Like Grieg, he found it stultifying, if technically impeccable. This did not stop him saying some rebelliously rude things about Grieg; not to mention composing freely, and having works snapped up for performance and publication, including his first three piano concertos (No. 1 is recorded on Naxos 8.555077). Tveitt found spiritual freedom in France, where he took lessons with the likes of Honegger and Villa-Lobos. Paris became a favourite stop on tour, and it was here that he gave the first performance of his Fourth Piano Concerto in 1947. A few hours after Kirsten Flagstad had sung music by Grieg, Tveitt enthusiastically echoed Grieg's feeling that "the French spirit was the salvation of Nordic music". By then Tveitt was married to his second wife Tullemor, grand-niece of Grieg's best friend Frants Beyer. Twenty years later Tveitt, now clearly at ease with his Griegian inheritance, even set to music four of Grieg's fascinating, highly personal, letters to Beyer.