(Society for the Publication of Danish Music)
Grabrodrestraede 18, 1
DK-11565 Copenhagen K
Phone 33 13 54 45
FAX 33 93 30 40
Review number and date: No. 52, July 1997
Review by Henry Doktorski:
I'll never forget the day when the scores from SAMFUNDET arrived in the mail. At that time I was in the habit of pedaling my bicycle to the post office (a seven mile round trip) to pick up my mail, which I would carry home in a small backpack. (I do this for the pleasure of riding and also for the exercise -- which I don't get too much of.)
This day my mailbox contained a yellow slip of paper which informed me that a package had arrived which I should pick it up at the front desk. When the postmaster brought me the box I was shocked: it was nearly twice the size of my humble knapsack and it weighed over twenty-five pounds.
I decided that rather than risk my life trying to carry it in my arms while pedaling my bicycle home -- a delicate and dangerous balancing act, considering the motor vehicular traffic -- I would return later with my automobile.
When I finally returning home with the package, I tore it open with the rambunctious enthusiasm of a small child opening his presents early on Christmas morning. I was not disappointed; the package contained almost two dozen beautifully engraved scores by thirteen Danish composers. Enclosed were fourteen pieces for solo accordion, six pieces for chamber ensemble and two orchestral scores.
In addition to the scores, I found several pieces of promotional literature describing The Society for the Publication of Danish Music (SAMFUNDET). The Society was founded in 1871 by a group of composers, including the renowned Peter Heise. The Society has been active for more than 125 years in the promotion of Danish music by printing and publishing important works by Danish composers, including Carl Nielsen, Rued Langgaard and Launy Grondahl.
In 1994, the society introduced their Classical Accordeon Edition to recognize the significant compositions written for the free-bass accordion. They were edited by none other than the late Mogens Ellegaard, who is considered "the father of the avant-garde accordion."
The current president of SAMFUNDET, Klaus Ib Jorgensen (a composer also), wrote:
Mogens Ellegaard, wrote a brief history of the Danish concert accordion: "When I was eight, I fell from a balcony and hurt myself rather badly. As we all know, a catastrophe seldom comes alone. When I woke up in the hospital, my parents presented me with a small accordeon, and I have been playing ever since.
"As chance would have it, this incident also gave me a corner in the history of modern Danish accordeon music, resulting in, among many other things, my involvement in the present anthology of contemporary music for the classical accordeon -- an instrument entirely different from the accordeon of my early youth, with single-note manuals for both hands, and a tonal range like a Steinway grand. It is a young instrument with no tradition behind it, and no old classical repertoire of its own; but with a repertoire of original contemporary music which in the past thirty years has opened doors to our concert halls, symphony orchestras, academies and music schools.
"It all started back in 1958 when I asked the young Danish composer Ole Schmidt to write a concerto for me. 'But I never liked the accordeon,' he protested, He changed his mind when introduced to my classical accordeon. Eight months later Ole Schmidt conducted the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra in the world premiere of his Symphonic Fantasy and Allegro -- the first serious concerto written for accordeon and orchestra in this part of the world. I was rather nervously present at that historic concert, too -- as the soloist.
"The work was pronounced one of the sensations of the concert season, resulting in numerous performances with Danish and other Scandinavian orchestras in the next few years. More importantly, perhaps, the success of the work helped to inspire other Danish, Swedish and Norwegian composers including Niels Viggo Bentzon, Ib Norholm, Per Norgard, Poul Rovsing Olsen, Vagn Holmboe, Bent Lorentzen, Karl Aage Rasmussen and Mogens Winkel Holm to write virtuoso concertos and solo works and, later, a considerable amount of chamber music. . . . The classical accordeon had indeed invaded the concert stage!
"In 1970 the Royal Danish Academy of Music decided to admit the classical accordeon to its curriculum, and I was asked to take on the responsibility of building up the conservatory programme. I asked our composers to write instructional literature too. Leif Kayser, Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen and Herman D. Koppel are brilliant examples of composers who willingly accepted this challenge.
"Among the many accordeon works written in Denmark in the last few decades there are of course works that only saw two performances -- the first and the last! But much of the music survived, and some of it has even become part of the standard international repertoire. In the present anthology I see it as an important task to blow the dust from some older, precious -- but still unpublished -- scores, as well as presenting the newest Danish accordeon music. . . .
"I often think back to that fateful fall from the balcony, which changed my life so radically. I shall never know what would have happened if I had not fallen. But I do know that I would not fall again if I were given the chance to repeat the scene
"I would jump!"
Following is a brief description of the music:
Saga Night is a one-movement contrapuntal work written for the Norgwegian accordionist Geir Draugsvoll titled after an ancient saga from the Norse literary tradition which states, "that saga night descending with dreams upon our land." The climax appears after a fff pesante section which diminuendos into an elongated ppp trill and concludes with an adagio cantabile.
A Dirge: "Other Echoes Inhabit The Garden" is a extremely mathematical contrapuntal piece which many changing time signatures and sophisticated ratios, such as four against seven, six against five, etc. The work is a solo accordion version of a concerto for accordion and orchestra written for Geir Draugsvoll and dedicated to the memory of Morton Feldman. The title comes from a text by T.S. Eliot.
Troglodyte is an interesting contemporary piece of program music (of only four pages) which alternates between rapid bird-like motives and gentle diatonic/quartal chords. The composer wrote in the program notes: "The art of inclusion will often be the art of omission. The art consists in leaving things out. This art finds its extreme expression in the troglodyte or hermit. Solitary meditation in the wilderness. Troglodytes troglodytes is also the name of a bird, the wren. It is one of the smallest and slightest of birds."
Cadenza is based on the harmonic material in Jorgensen's concerto -- Temperature -- for accordion and chamber orchestra and was written for Geir Draugsvoll. Instead of using traditional terms like introduction, construction, condensation, expansion, coda, etc. the composer uses expressive guidelines like zero-point, thaw, overheating, acute freeze, permafrost, etc. The work begins with a senza misura pppp e', which is rapidly repeated some 72 times, before departing and has a pointillistic flavor.
Winter Darkness, written for accordionist James Crabb for his debut concert at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen, begins with a quasi corallo section with vibrato (actually tremolo) followed by a two-voice prestissimo section marked "as fast as possible." The composer wrote, "The title should be understood as contrasting the cold energy of the winter -- the storm -- with the frozen state of winter in the elegy of darkness."
Suite Sacra is a five-movement work which, in my opinion, seemed to imitate the sound of a pipe organ. It begins with a largo Preludio with ff chords which diminuendos to a p contrapuntal section. The ff chords return at the end of this movement. The second movement is a two-voice dolce e grazioso intermezzo -- a waltz, which is followed by an allegro Hallelujah in three sections. The fourth movement is a larghetto Rondo Meditativo, gentle and expressive. The piece concludes with a Postludio which seems at times to refer back to the opening.
Arabesques is a ten-movement contrapuntal work commissioned by the Danish Accordion Teachers Association. The movements are: 1: an andantino espressivo two-voice invention, 2: a tranquillo, ma grazioso monodic melody, 3: a largo f movement in triple time which reminded me of an organ prelude, 4: a larghetto grazioso in quadruple time, 5: a rhythmic staccato piece, 6: another larghetto, 7: an allegretto grazioso, 8: a homophonic andantino, 9: an andante, and 10: a piano allegro.
Confetti is a set if fifteen pieces selected from the composer's works for accordion which were commissioned by the Danish Accordeon Teacher's Association. The pieces are didactic and may be performed separately or combined in short suites. Some are more difficult than others and range from a gentle adagio to a a peppy allegretto. All are contrapuntal.
Excursion With Detours is lengthly work with a constant moto perpetua rhythm which continues throughout the piece, from an allegretto innocente opening to a Feroce (Hhepunkt) climax. The piece was commissioned by the Danish Accordion Teachers' Association and was dedicated to accordionist Jostein Stahlheim who gave the first performance. The piece confronts serial and rhythmical systems with segments of the tonal system.
Cadenza is the cadence of Cobweb, Pade's Concerto for Accordion and Orchestra which was written for Mogens Ellegaard. As can be expected from the title, the piece exploits many of the virtuosic aspects of the instrument, including the bellows shake.
Toccata No. 2 was commissioned by the American society, The Accordion Teachers' Guild and represents Ole Schmidt's fourth opus for the accordion. The piece is an exploitation of the sonorous qualities of the accordion, and the recitatives bring forth the expressive qualities of the instrument. The piece uses both the free-bass left-hand buttons and stradella left-hand buttons.
Four Pieces is a collection of some of Ole Schmidt's shorter pieces for accordion, all of which were written for Mogens Ellegaard: 1) Dilaogue (Two-Part Invention), 2) Dialogue II (Two-Part Invention), Flight of the Meatball Over the Fence, and Lyric Episode.
The following is from the program notes by Mr. Ellegaard:
"Every accordionist is of course familiar with the Danish composer Ole Schmidt's two virtuosic toccatas, and possibly also his two brilliant concertos for accordion and orchestra. Personally, I have performed this music for more than thirty years -- literally hundreds of times -- thorughout the world. And I have not gotten tired of it yet. But do you know the story about Ole Schmidt's musical joke entitled Frikadellens Flugt Over Plankev╩rket? Well, here it is:
"On a rainy Saturday in September 1968 I was having lunch together with Ole Schmidt in his country house north of Copenhagen. After the traditional Danish herring-and-schnapps ouverture we were in the middle of the obligatory meat-balls, which in Danish are called Frikadeller, when the following conversation took place:
"You have not written anything for the accordion in the last four years. I think it is about time you wrote another work."
"You mean right in the middle of the meat-balls?"
"Why not? They might even inspire you to write a dramatic piece for my next concert."
"Inspiration hit the composer like a bomb. The meat-balls were put back into the refrigerator, and during the following hectic hours Ole Schmidt -- at the upright piano -- cooked a delightful dish of musical meat-balls with the above-mentioned dramatic title, which is rather impossible to translate, as it is at the same time an inside national joke. Escape of the Meatballs Over the Fence is really much more funny in Danish.
"Here is the composer's recipe for preparation and consumption of this small musical meal: 'While playing the lungissima counter E in the final bar with the left hand, the interpreter produces with his right hand from his pocket a home-made meat-ball. After seasoning it with a finger-tip of Mediterranean Ocean salt, he eats it . . . and the piece is over.'"
Twelve Tango Studies was inspired by the great Argentine bandoneonist Astor Piazzolla and dedicated to the students of the Danish Accordion Academy, founded by Jeanette Dyremose. The work was recorded by the students on dacapo CD 8.224006.
Pezzo Concertante was influenced by the great Neo-Classicists (Stravinsky and Hindemith) and includes quotations from the music of Alban Berg, H.W. Henze and Vagn Holmboe.
Colours in Motion was dedicated to Jeanette Dyremose and the Danish Accordion Academy. There are three movements: Meditation, Perpetual Motion and Chorale.
Distortion-Commentary was commissioned by Aksel H. Mathiesen for the accordion class of the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen. The composer described his piece in the program notes: "The work takes the form of a suite of variations on a medieval theme, but out of the variations, the distortions and the purely commentatory aspects grouws an autonomous harmonic universe which, after almost taking over the piece compeltely, must finally retreat again in face of the original -- the almost pure...."
Ice-Breaking was commissioned by the Deutscher Akkordeonlehrerverband for the accordion trio: Ellegaard-Bene-S»rensen. The sections are titled, Frozen, Breaking, Thawing and Fluently. (Isn't it amazing how the Danish composers have the recurring theme of ice and Winter in their music?)
Music for Fun is in three movements: grazioso, untitled and homage and contains sections of an improvisatory nature.
Tie-Break was written for Jeanette Dyremose and the Danish Accordion Academy and contains four movements: Introduction, Meno, poco rubato, Piu mosso, Drammatico, Pastorale, esitando. The name Tie-Break is borrowed from tennis: the decisive turning-point in a set which is often decisive for the outcome of the match as a whole.
Temperature was commissioned by the ATHELAS Ensemble and dedicated to Geir Draugsvoll. It begins with a ppp senza misura accordion solo in rapid sixteenth-note figures which gradually increase in activity until a sudden stop. The accordion begins again and gradually, little by little, the orchestra enters: an extremely compex and detailed piece.
Mean Time was composed for Morten Rossen and is in three sections: Inquieto, Lento and Presto.
I highly recommend the SAMFUNDET Classical Accordeon Edition for all classical accordion lovers.
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