Nordic composers regularly compose works for accordion, either
alone or with accompaniment. This may be the result of the fact
that several Nordic countries have nurtured – and still nurture
– highly professional accordion players who constantly encourage
composers to write new pieces for them. I think of people such
as the Finn Matti Rantanen, Frode Haltli, Magnus Ellegaard (Haltli’s
teacher in Copenhagen) and – of course – Geir Draugsvoll. There
is also Teodoro Anzellotti, to name but one of these brilliant
accordion players born outside Nordic countries. Composers are
inspired by the technical accomplishment as well as the musicality
displayed by these musicians, and the release under review offers
a selection of such pieces. Actually, most of the pieces here
are dedicated to Geir Draugsvoll and the Aniara Quartet.
Valkare is almost the Grand Old Man in this company, since he
was born in 1943. He is the only composer featured here whom
I knew of. The two pieces for accordion and string quartet may
be played either as a short suite in two movements or, separately,
as opening and closing items of a recital. The present recording
opts for the second possibility, which incidentally makes sense,
since the title of eX (2000) stands for “exit”.
The first piece Taang (2001) alludes to tango,
so the music is replete with tango echoes although the composer
allows some slower episodes for contrast’s sake. eX,
in ternary form, opens in a lively manner, moves into a peaceful
central section and ends with a varied restatement of the opening
section abruptly cut short. Valkare’s pieces are on the whole
fairly traditional, by 20th and 21st centuries
standards; accessible and attractive in their own right.
Daniel Nelson moved to Sweden in 1970 and went back to the States
in 1985 to further his musical studies at the Peabody Conservatory.
He seems though to be now active in Sweden again. As implied
by its title, My Inner Disco for accordion and
string quartet is a short fantasy in dance rhythms, and quite
Dafgård’s Quartet I is the only work in this selection
for string quartet alone. This compact work in five short movements
is more a suite of sketches than a fully worked-out string quartet;
but it is a very fine work that repays repeated hearings. It
is also very well written for the medium. A most welcome novelty.
I am looking forward to hearing more of his music.
very title of Kraftspiel and the fact that Staffan
Mossenmark has written a piece called WROOM for
100 Harley-Davidson motorcycles (sic) made me fear for the worst
... at first. I am delighted to admit that listening to the
piece dispelled my misgivings. Kraftspiel is in three
sections played without a break; actually fast outer sections,
of which the last one is quite virtuosic, frame a slower, almost
static central episode. This piece sounds rather more modern
than the others recorded here, but not intractably so. Mossenmark
draws some unusual sounds out of the accordion, but he never
resorts to any of the trendy gimmicks of modern instrumental
writing. Sure, too, there are some clusters and isolated key
clicks, but always discretely done. The music actually displays
a good deal of imaginative and fanciful writing as well as considerable
rhythmic energy. I ultimately found it quite enjoyable too.
Draugsvoll is a formidable musician whose immaculate technique
is matched with great musicality. He receives committed support
from the Aniara Quartet. This CD is actually their debut release.
I would certainly like to hear them again and have them exploring
the Nordic string quartet repertoire. The pieces featured here
may not be towering masterpieces, but make for a very interesting
and most enjoyable programme. My sole reservation about this
otherwise worthwhile release is the scarcity of information
concerning the pieces and their composers. However I found all
I needed to know by visiting the Swedish Music Information Centre’s
well-presented website www.stim.se.
Well worth exploring.