New Sounds for the Humble Squeeze Box!

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New Sounds for the Humble Squeeze Box! ... external link
8 May 2019 Amazon - review
Review by: Sue Leigh Waugh

Work by Lohse: In liquid... (accordion concerto, second version)
Cd: Accordion Concertos, Dacapo

From Concertinas and Bandoneons to Garmons, Bayans, Trikitis and hundreds of regional and ethnic variants, the humble, and sometimes NOT so humble squeeze box has been the source of community music making virtually everywhere music is heard. What is surprising, especially given the instrument's ubiquity, has been its neglect, nay, disdain by the classical music establishment. Even in Denmark, where the accordion has long enjoyed widespread popularity, it wasn't until 1970 that the instrument was even taught in conservatory, thanks to efforts of the enormously talented Danish accordionist, Mogens Ellegaard.

The current disc features a brilliantly creative quartet of works, each brimming with wit and good humor, yet never for a moment shying away from either virtuosity or musical complexity. Starting things off is Ole Schmidt's high-spirited Symphonic Fantasy and Allegro of 1958. While better known as a conductor, and a VERY good one at that, Schmidt composed the Fantasy on a commission from Ellegaard and was the first accordion concerto composed in Denmark. Cast in two movements in an idiom somewhere between Hindemith and late Bartok, the accordion is given every opportunity to strut it's stuff through both through all the standard virtuoso displays - rapids scales and passage work, arpeggios, passeges in octaves, etc., - as well as some effects unique to the accordion, for example, there are a couple passages of rapid bellows work that just sends chills down your spine!

Born in 1947 into one of Denmark's most musical families, Andres Koppel has led an extradinarily varied and creative life making e his mark as an exceptionally prolific and versatile composer as well as being the leader of Savage Rose, one of Denmark's most successful rock bands. This amphibious life, between "popular" and concert culture informs much of Koppel's work, both in terms of style as well as instrumentation. His Concerto Piccolo, the first of three concertos featuring the accordion, is called so because of the scaled down instrumentation - only strings are used - is vintage Koppel. Confidently merging popular and neo-classical idioms, Koppel's quirky sense of humor is also much in evidence - such as the recurring tick-tock figures the appear in the first and third movements, wispy phrases disappearing into thin air, and the jaunty melodies and wheezing glissandos in the concluding Allegretto scherzando.

Born in 1971, Martin Lohse is the youngest composer on the program. A student of Hans Abrahamsen and Niels Rosing-Schow, Lohse is also an accomplished abstract painter. Lohse broadly aligns himself with the "New Simplicity" but with a very distinctive, personal polystylistic twist, seamlessly incorporating and blending elements of Baroque, and Romantic styles seasoned with episodes of minimalism. In Liquid, one of a number of Lohse’s works composed for Bjarke Mogensen originally appeared in a version for accordion and piano but has subsequently been revised and reconceived multiple times. Lohe explains that the title, In Liquid refers to “… the liquid feeling of time. Repetitions, sequences and patterns slowly changes between each other.” As a part of this “flow” Lohse explores poly-tempi at several places in the score, calling for the accordion to accelerate while the orchestra remains at a constant speed (the first occurrence takes place about 2’:27” in the first movement) to thrilling effect. Cast in four movements, Lohse chose to reverse the standard concerto form by having the dramatic, virtuoso cadenza embedded between two contrasting slow(er) movements: the first, broadly Romantic, the concluding fourth movement, harmonically nearly static.

For an album that has already been full of surprises, the biggest surprised was kept for last! To most contemporary music fans the name Per Nørgård immediately brings to mind his imposing metaphysical symphonies and operas and of course, his fascinating deployment of his infinity series for serializing melody, harmony, and rhythm. Composed in 1968, Recall was by Nørgård’s admission “composed as a tribute to my recollections of the vitality of Balkan folklore – as perceived by an urban Scandinavian.” Recall is composed in three (too brief!) movements. A mysterious, melancholy mood characterizes the opening Cantico antico, with its major-minor shifts and hushed mood. The spell is abruptly broken by an orchestral outburst that takes us directly into the vigorous Villanesca. Balkan rhythms and melodies swill about in free-form but as Nørgård reminds us, these ARE the swinging ‘60s through the addition of congas and and some rock-influenced chord changes! The high spirits continue without throughout the bumptious Rondino which features a mini-cadenza before ending with the slightest of sighs.

Throughout, Danish National Chamber Orchestra under Rolf Gupta perform with style and broad humor but the main attraction is Bjarke Mogensen whose virtuosity will leave you breathless. And smiling.

Recommended without reservation!