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Contemporary Works for String Quartet and Accordion
Gunnar VALKARE (b. 1943)
Taang (2001) [10:50]
eX (2000) [10:56]
Daniel NELSON (b. 1965)
My Inner Disco (2002) [9:15]
Jörgen DAFGÅRD (b. 1964)
Quartet I (1993/8) [10:31]
Staffan MOSSENMARK (b. 1961)
Kraftspiel (1991) [13:41]
Geir Draugsvoll (accordion); Aniara Quartet
Recorded: Malmö College of Music, Rosenberg Hall, February 2003
INTIM MUSIK IMCD 088 [55:15]

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Remarkably enough, 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.

Gunnar 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.

American-born 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 entertaining too.

Jörgen 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.

The 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.

Geir 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 Well worth exploring.

Hubert Culot



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