Harald Fylken - hardingfele
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Harald Fylken
Hardingfele (Ta:lik, Norway)

Historic recordings by Norwegian hardangar fiddler Harald Fylken (1910–1963). The first tracks on this CD are taken from a series of recordings Gudbrand A. Brager made in April 1962, by Arne Bjørndal in July 1957 and by Erik Steine Riste at Harald’s home in 1958.

Excellent historical and musicial notes in Norwegian and English

See the full series of historic hardingfele recordings from Tal:ik Records, Norway


Harald Fylken (1910–1963) was born at Fulkji in Vestre Slidre to Nils Evensen, Vestre Slidre (1866–1961), and Agnethe Enger, Hamar (1876–1953). Nils played fiddle mostly for the household, but he influenced Harald so much that the son took up fiddle playing already in his boyhood. Early in the 1920s, Nils built the house at Fulkji next to the highway at Vøllabrune. He worked here year-round in his shoemaker workshop. The great fiddler Ivar Ringestad often dropped in on Nils, and the fiddle—which was always at hand—would come out, and there could be fiddling for hours on end. Ivar was well grounded in the fiddling style of Vestre Slidre. His knowledge, his good technical skill, and the rich gift he had for harmonizing characterized his playing. With long bow strokes and skilled fingering, he expressed both the drama and the lyricism in the music, and he paid much attention to the strong and characteristic rhythm in the Vestre Slidre music. On the whole he had an exacting fiddle style, and he was considered one of the best fiddlers of his time. Those who heard him in his best years were full of praise. Once the government-appointed scholar Arne Bjørndal, on an information-gathering tour in Valdres, spent the night at Ringestad. Later he said, “There wasn’t much sleep. Ivar played all night in 12 to 14 different tunings. I haven’t heard the equal to that anywhere else in the land.”

The charismatic fiddler and his music made a strong impression on Harald. And because Harald had much of the same temperament, it was nearly a foregone conclusion that Ivar became Harald’s master teacher. Harald spent countless days together with Ivar, learning to play. Harald was capitivated by Ivar’s way of playing, and he cultivated Ivar’s playing faithfully. He was thus a worthy heir to this rich music tradition. As Ivar Ringestad’s student, Harald mastered the typical rhythm and flavor in the springar music especially.

Harald developed quickly as a fiddler and was a central figure in the folk music and dance environment in Slidre. Just after the Second World War, the fiddlers in Vestre Slidre met regularly, and Harald was one of those who taught tunes. At the end of the 1940s, interested folk in Vestre Slidre and Vang established the spelemannslag (fiddlers’ group) Valdreskvelven. This was an active milieu and in addition to Harald other fiddlers included Lars Bjerke, Jørgen Bøe, Ola Grihamar, Torgeir Havro, Knut Lyngstad, Lars Wangensten, Ola Fylken, Knut Hemsing, Knut Skjefte, Arvid Jacobsen Myhre, Kristian Husaker, Erik Stein Riste, and more. As time went by and several central figures passed on, activity in the lag nearly ceased. But later Valdreskvelven was reestablished as the spelemannslag for Vang.

When one produces a recording of Harald Fylken, and especially his music after Ivar Ringestad, one must say a few words about the artistic lineage at Ringestad. It reaches back generation to generation more than 250 years, with fiddlers and silversmiths. The story is that a fiddler from Ringestad was the first person from Valdres who, in the early 1700s, traveled to Hardanger to buy a Hardanger fiddle and learn to play it. From that origin, this artist and his successors adapted their local music for the Hardanger fiddle and developed their own Valdres music style. And so one can say that Ringestad was an original center for Hardanger fiddle music in Valdres.

Folk music is now spreading widely to the coming generations in regional courses and in country-wide institutions. These efforts are bearing fruit. With good instruments and clever teachers the music can be brilliant, but it also can be watered down and lose its local distinctiveness. Ivar Ringestad didn’t travel outside his valley with his fiddle, and Harald barely did, either. Their music thus was not influenced very much from the outside. They held the opinion that the old fiddling style should be protected.

Even though the sound quality here is not the best, we who grew up with Harald’s music and danced to it feel a sense of identity and well being when we listen to this recording. The tunes somehow unfold themselves to us with the rich bowing and supple fingering that belong to this music tradition. We become solemn, and we think with sadness about Harald’s all-too-early departure from this world and the cozy home he created south of Hausåker at the end of the 1930s.
- Ola Hjelle Harald Fylken played in many weddings, and he was one of the most faithful fiddlers at the dance hall in Slidre for the Seventeenth of May celebration and other festivities. Harald didn’t especially like to be on stage and thus didn’t participate much in competitions—only a few times at the local competition and at the Hilme-stemne in Fagernes. He appeared on the folk music program on the radio but wasn’t very satisfied with his performance. Among friends and like-minded people, however, he performed quite well. When the monument to Sjur Helgeland was unveiled in Mørkdalen in 1958, Harald and his wife, Sigrid, were guests of ours at Voss. The evening of the unveiling, some fiddlers and other people gathered at the Vinje Hotel at Vossestrand. Harald played and the audience was infatuated. Afterwards I was busy answering questions about this fiddler the others had barely heard about.

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