ELLINOR & LEONOR – Årsringar (Kakafon Records, KAKACD036)

ÅrsringarÅrsringar may only be the second album in five years from Swedish/Belgian duo Ellinor Fritz (fiddle) and Leonor Palazzo (5-string cello), but music of this quality is well worth the wait. The duo’s uncommon take on the “two fiddle” tradition brings added depth and richness to traditional, mostly dance, tunes.

Meaning “Growth Rings”, Årsringar’s suggestion of rootedness and longevity makes a useful metaphor for the music as organic and evolving: the new gently transforming the old. Drawing on classical styles, folk and improvisation, with the melody line often swimming between the two instruments, both artists give sensitive and superb performances.

The album reimagines traditional tunes from Fritz’s homeland, the South Dalarna area of Sweden, arising from and embodying the rural Swedish landscape, especially the eerily beautiful ‘Vallåt’, whose plaintive fiddle, cello and vocalising, evokes the silent stillness of snow – perhaps in woods – each sound amplified and resonant.

Ellinor & Leonor can shift moods in a beat, taking their subtly celtic-infused and lilting ‘Brudmarsch Från Enviken’ to somewhere far more melancholy by its end. Elegant waltz, ‘Vals Efter Saras Jon’, becomes gradually ever more rustic, ending in a wry final flourish that seems to have tongue firmly in cheek.

A flurry of polskas are scattered throughout, each quite different in tone.‘Hins Anders Polska’ is a sparky, pulsating affair, whilst ‘Polska Efter Myr Anders’ features a darker, droning cello relieved by the lightness of the fiddle. Flickering bowed slurs introduce ‘Polska Efter CH Erlandsson’, a jazz-inflected plucked cello supporting the tight coils of fiddle melody. Against these, the D- and G-minor key polskas ‘Efter Jon Åman’ contain echoes of the poignant, sorrowing relish of klezmer.

‘Karusellen’, a lively, earthy and entertaining hagervals, contrasts with the much darker colours of ‘Uggelbovalsen’ a contemplative piece which can feel like watching a hawk soaring against a stormy sky one moment, and pretending to be happy but really feeling sad the next. After such melancholic brooding, the ‘Schottis Efter August Medin “Necken”’ makes a perfect antidote, as this percussively persuasive, bewitching, hip-twitching little tune carries the listener gleefully along.

Årsringar is a really delightful album, graceful and witty, reflective and lively all at once. Released in May 2019, it’s never too late to catch up on such a fine set of tunes so beautifully expressed.

Su O’Brien

Artist website: www.ellinorleonor.com

‘G-moll Polska Effer John Åman’ – live: