We get about 75 new albums a DAY coming in here now, (about 30,000 total), and yours is one of the best I've ever heard.
-Derek Sivers, CDbaby
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This is nyckelharpa. Just a nyckelharpa. No other instruments. This is a bit unusual. Nyckelharpa nowadays is mostly played as part of a group, several nyckelharpas together and maybe some other instruments too. I think this is good. It's an instrument whose sound fits well with many other instruments.
But for me, harpa playing is something deeper. The nyckelharpa's decidedly unique voice, its double stops and myriad of small, small details, multiple nuances which go unnoticed when you play as part of a group, for example. The reason I decided to make this CD was to give you a chance to hear the beauty of just a single nyckelharpa and hopefully appreciate how it can sound. This instrument is truly worth hearing!
On the CD you will find traditional tunes along side a few of my own compositions which are in traditional style. I've written many tunes over the years and have often had requests to include them on a recording. So here you are. I hope listening will give you musical pleasure and maybe a little joy too.
-Peter Puma Hedlund, liner notes
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"This is a nyckelharpa. Just nyckelharpa. This is a bit unusual." So says Peter Hedlund in the liner notes to his new recording, an unaccompanied album of nyckelharpa music. Peter sets himself in contrast to popular Swedish bands like Väsen that use a harpa as part of larger sound. While giving them their due, he says, "For me, harpa playing is something deeper. The nyckelharpa's decidedly unique voice, it's myriad of small, small details ... go unnoticed when you play as part of a group."
The best traditional music evokes a strong sense of place, the dance rhythms rooting us in the earth. The nyckelharpa in general sounds rather like a fairy tale: the sad sweetness of the melodies and the ringing echoes of the sympathetics invoking gnomes and trolls. Hedlund's playing is of the highest order, having won the World Championship twice, and his subtle touch and nuanced playing brings you to a far away place: the boreal forest in the long twilight of late winter, northern lights in the sky perhaps, a small cabin with candles in the window welcoming you home.
Playing solo is demanding: no-one to hide behind, no other instruments to create contrast and texture. The album is very much of a piece-the fifty-three minutes can slip by without you noticing it-but doesn't become monotonous. Hedlund is able to keep his playing interesting by treating each tune fully, with a myriad of small variations, and choses enough different material to create texture. Each time I listen some new piece of wonder jumps out, and I assume that the listening will only become deeper over time. Fully a third of the tunes here are original compositions, and Hedlund has a great touch for making his own tunes. They are fully in traditional style, some sounding even older than the trad tunes, but invariably are the tunes that grab me the most. All in all, a coveted album for Nordic connoisseurs. It may be too fast an entry into the deep well for newcomers to Swedish music, but will remain as a beacon when you're ready.
-Brendan Taaffe, Fiddler Magazine, winter 2002/2003 issue
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There is no question that the man known as Puma is a world class master of the nyckelharpa. Currently residing in Hälsingland, he has recently come out with a solo cd with both traditional tunes as well as his own compositions. Puma, now 45, became a Fiddler-of-the-Realm early on, back in 1975. He is the first person to ever bring home the nyckelharpa World Championship title-modern harpa class-two times. It's easy to understand why now that I've allowed the new Vägen to cycle through several times in the cd player. This is nyckelharpa playing of the highest order, exemplifying both expressive feeling and matchless technique. There are many fine tunes among the 22 tracks. This is a definite must-have record for all nyckelharpa enthusiasts.
-Micke Forsberg, Folkdansaren
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. . . At a time of experimentation and searching within the Swedish folk music genre, when instruments, styles, techniques and tunes are blended seemingly haphazardly, Peter Hedlund's solo CD feels like a cleansing . . .
I saw and heard Puma play for the first time exactly 20 years ago. When I zoomed in on him with my telephoto lens, he was the spitting image of Nick Nolte! Seven years earlier, 1975, he had become a riksspelman (fiddler of the realm), after only three years of playing nyckelharpa and five years before that as a student of the violin. Ten years ago he earned the World Championship title on nyckelharpa, a feat he repeated in 2000. Peter Hedlund, born 1957, grew up in Kungsängen outside Stockholm and got the nickname Puma early on from his playmates because he could navigate the underbrush silently just like a cat in the wild.
Here you have a multifaceted musician-one who brings forth large masterful music with his instrument and at the same time is a stalwart tradition bearer who readily blends into the northern woodlands of Hälsingland where he now lives in the tiny village of Iste.
Upon hearing a new CD, one usually identifies one or two tunes right off the bat that will become favorites. On this recording I found fourteen such tunes!
Normally I don't respond favorably to polskas. Here I find three that speak to me. Peter's own Polska on the Spot-created, literally, on the spot one time when he couldn't think of a tune to play for dancers-has wonderful clean elements which shine with an accentuated minor second part and must give enormous dance pleasure for those who know their way around the slängpolska's special steps. Peter explains that, luckily, someone at the dance recorded the tune on tape so he was able to learn it afterwards. Then there's a traditional polska after Wilhelm Gelotte with strong leanings towards classical music and, of course, Polska for Exhaustion, after Viksta-Lasse, gives a tremendous jolt of energy!
Puma is very fond of waltzes, but he doesn'tt present them in a-dime-a-dozen style, even though the decorative and flirtatious Inger's Bridal Waltz is part of the package. It's great that Peter has included Ebbe Jularbo's Playhouse Waltz played in the impossible keys of E-flat and A-flat. Peter handily gives his own special character to this tune. Knäppgöken by Ragnar Berglund from Möklinta is quite a workout for the left hand-I'd like to see an accordion player try that one!
Waltz from Karlholm efter Tore Zetterström, which Tore played on a silverbasharpa back in 1934 on Swedish radio, was saved for posterity by the magic of radio recording. Peter has put great effort into listening and deciphering the old recording and created a his own brilliant interpretation in honor of Zetterström. It's a fabulous tune in which it sounds as if several Peters are playing at once.
The album starts off with Puma's Moose March and signs off with a terrific set of marches. There is Eric Sahlström's Karolinermarschen, August Bohlin's Korntorkar'n and the incredible four part Hälsingemarschen also after Tore Zetterström's radio program now roughly 70 years in the past. And lastly, Peter's own Iste Kornbodsmarsch in honor of his home village Iste. He paints a portrait for us describing beautiful Hälsingland. I yearn to hear this particular tune played in a large vaulted church, it has soul and strength of composition and execution that years for a stately bridal procession.
This is music to become lost in!
-Göran Andersson, Nya Åland, July 4, 2002