Two perspectives on the fiddle recital

One of the beauties of music is that it can be experienced and interpreted in a variety of ways; two of those being through the ears of a music major and those of a non-music major. For example, a music major might focus on the complexities in the piano technique used versus the repetitive folk dance style of the fiddle, and a non-music major may simply listen to the melody and ponder the emotions it evokes.

In this article, we recorded two opinions on the Sept. 10 faculty and guest recital from individuals with very different perspectives and musical backgrounds.

Broadcast Media

The recital showcased Elizabeth Weis and Frances Olson Borgerding ’18. The duo played excerpts from “Slatter,” or “Norwegian Peasant Dances” by Edvard Grieg, a famous Norwegian composer. Borgerding played the piano and Weis played the Hardanger Fiddle, a rare instrument specific to Norway.

Weis teaches Hardanger Fiddle lessons at St. Olaf, offering a unique opportunity to explore Norwegian culture. Borgerding studied with Weis at St. Olaf while also studying other forms of classical and Scandinavian folk music. While her primary instrument is piano, she also studied the violin and the Hardanger Fiddle.

Josie Lynn ’23, vocal music education major wrote on the recital:
The recital began with Weis entering from the back of the venue accompanied by folk dancers. This immediately set up the mood for the recital, transporting the audience to a Norwegian folk festival. The music incorporated trills and a repetitive percussive beat into the fiddle sections of each piece to further convey the dance-like feel. The piano section, which was distinctly separated from that of the fiddle, contrasted with the dancing rhythms of the fiddle. With variation in speed, tone and style, the piano came off as more musically complex. The contrast of the two instruments provided an insight into the history of each instrument in Norwegian culture: the fiddle was used for festivals, and the piano was used for musical study.

Shelby Louk ’23, history major:
When I listened to Weis and Borgerding perform, I was immediately struck by how enthusiastic and energetic both artists were. Weis tapped her feet in time to the music, and Borgerding’s fingers seemed to fly across the keys. The songs, especially when accompanied by the folk dancers, were bright and almost carefree. I’m sure I would not be alone in saying that they made me want to get up and dance. An atmosphere of joy was present throughout the concert, and it did not dissipate until even after the last note was played.

Although we both were listening to the exact same performance, we interpreted it in two different ways, and our interpretations likely differed from the other audience members as well. The beauty of music is that a group of completely different people can hear the same piece, performed in the same way, and each one can take away something unique. Each person’s view is valid in its own way. This phenomena doesn’t only apply to one genre of music – it’s true of music across all cultures, ages and majors. However, no matter what perspective one has, we agree that Weis and Borgerding’s performance was excellent and thought-provoking.

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