Geirr Tveitt

1908 - 1981



Geirr Tveitt was born in Bergen, Norway. His music draws from many different styles and traditions, most notably from Stravinsky, Bartók, Debussy and Ravel. Nonetheless, it seems as if his music is always underpinned by an aesthetic derived from Norwegian folk music. 

Tveitt has composed operas, cantatas, ballet music as well as a series of concertos for piano and Hardanger fiddle. His most famous work is A Hundred Hardanger Tunes(1954-1963) – Norwegian folk tunes arranged in a series of short, elegantly orchestrated movements. Unfortunately, very few of his works have been published or properly archived at institutions due to a disastrous fire at his home in 1970.  

Geirr Tveitt was a key figure in the national movement in Norwegian cultural life in the 1930s and remains one of Norway’s most prominent composers and controversial musical personalities. 
Critical Acclaim one should fear an encounter with the multifaceted Geirr Tveitt. His chamber music is less well known than his other compositional facets but it is no less communicative and certainly no less warm - Jonathan Woolf,

The outer movements demand (and receive) the kind of torrential virtuosity for which Tveitt himself was famed -


Geirr Tveitt was preoccupied with the national spirit, Norwegian and Nordic, throughout his life. Tveitt became a central and controversial figure in the nationa­list currents of the Right in Norway between World Wars I and II.

Tveitt grew up in Norway. His family lived in the summer in Kvam – a remote village in the Hardanger Fjord – and in the winter in Drammen near Oslo. Life both in the mountains and in the city seems to have suited Tveitt well – something one can hear with a little good will in his music. Tveitt’s works thus often present the rich folk music tradition from Hardanger in a musically sophisticated and urban art-music context – with great similarities to the work of contemporary composers like Igor Stra­vinsky, Béla Bartók or Heitor Villa-Lobos. A quite obvious example is the orchestral suites of One Hundred Hardanger Tunes, op. 151 (1954-1963).  After studies in Leipzig at the end of the 1920s Tveitt toured Europe for some years with great success as both a pianist and a composer. His interest – and pride – in his Nordic origins on the one hand prompted Tveitt to change his name – and add extra letters to the end of both his first name and surname to suggest the absolutely correct Norwegian pronunciation – and on the other to adopt a number of striking aesthetic and political stances; opinions which, especially after World War II, made him a particularly controversial cultural figure – very much like a number of other Norwe­gian artists – most strikingly perhaps the novelist Knut Hamsun.

After World War II Tveitt settled down on a farm in his native Kvam. In an accident in 1970 the farm was burnt to the ground and most of Tveitt’s works were lost. Several works have later been reconstructed from remaining fragments and sound recordings. The tragic accident almost put a stop to Tveitt’s activities as a composer, and left him with a severe depression and a serious alcohol problem.

For the last years of his life Tveitt worked as a programme producer at the Nor­wegian national broadcasting corporation NRK. There – despite his strong opinions and a sometimes highly combative attitude –he won the hearts of the Norwegian radio listeners through his very knowledgeable and empathetic programme items on Nor­we­gian folk music.  

Geirr Tveitt’s music combines inspiration from Norwegian folk music with elements from early modernist orchestral music. The result is original, musically sophisticated and often highly impactful and atmospheric music.

Hjarne Fessel 2014  


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