The Free-Reed Review
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CD Review: Marjut Tynkkynen
Black Birds

CD Image

total time: 42:30
released: 1994

label: Alba Records Oy
P.O. Box 549
Tel Int +358-31-345 1387
Fax Int +358-31-345 1384

Marjut Tynkkynen, accordion


Kalevi Aho: Sonata for accordion no. 1
Kalevi Aho: Sonata for accordion no. 2 (Black Birds)

music published by: Modus Musiikki Oy

PO Box 82
57101 Savonlinna
Phone 015-510 552
FAX 015-510 553

Review by Joseph Natoli:

Make no mistake, "Black Birds" is an extremely important recording for accordionists because it represents some of the most intensely virtuostic composing and performing ever accomplished on the instrument. Of course this wonderful contribution will not be appreciated by everyone, for this is contemporary music of the highest order that makes no pretensions about wanting to be loved or even understood by the masses. There are many who will therefore make the argument that such eclectic music serves no real purpose in art, especially if it can only be appreciated by a discreet handful of listeners. "It has no market potential, no charisma," some would say. "It is such difficult music, it will never be performed beyond this recording," others would say. My guess is that both the composer and the performer are not concerned with such proletarian issues. This project obviously emanated from one focused objective, and that is, from the first note composed to the last note performed, its intent was to create profoundly artistic music, whether or not it is embraced immediately by the masses.

Sonata #1 and Sonata #2 (Black Birds) by Kalevi Aho are absolutely spectacular examples of the best music that exists in contemporary accordion literature. Even though the accordion world has its share of incredible virtuosi, the demands on the performer are so extreme in these two compositions, I had no idea that we even possessed the kind of virtuosity that exists in these two performances by Marjut Tynkkynen. Ms. Tynkkynen seems to perform with the technical and rhythmic accuracy of a computer, but manages to beautifully complement this ability with the sensitivity of a Vladimir Horowitz, a satisfying combination of traits which are very uncanny in contemporary music. She must have at least 20 different levels of pianissimo which are just the "tip of the iceberg" in discovering the kinds of control of which this extremely talented musician is capable.

Kalevi Aho states in the performance notes that "My purpose in composing this sonata was to stretch the technical and expressive limits of the accordion as far as they would go, and to provide the instrument with a work on a par with the most brilliant piano pieces by Liszt in terms of virtuosity." It would be more appropriate to compare this work to the likes of the Eliott Carter Piano Concerti, or Stockhausen Klavierstucke rather than Liszt. The inclusion of passages with multiple ratios of tuplets in one hand, huge leaping atonal runs, and two-octave repeated notes are something that Liszt could only envy and wish that the piano of his day could accomplish.

Mr. Aho also indicates that the "Sonata #1 was composed for a free bass accordion with 'studs'—and ingenious manual system that allows extremely wide spans and figures that cannot be obtained on any other instrument." I was immediately envious and intimidated by the possibilities of this unique accordion, especially in the hands of Marjut Tynkkynen. The gymnastics she accomplishes on this type of instrument are unparalleled on ANY instrument, bar none. These same pyrotechnics are again evident in Sonata #2 (Blackbirds), where each of the five movements is a metaphorical reference to bird song. But to accomplish this metaphor there are many passages that seek to emulate the random and very quick wide leaps of bird song. Again, Ms. Tynkkynen executes these "impossible" passages with ease and grace.

If you cannot tell already, I was extremely moved by this recording. Granted this music is not easy, but then again nothing worthwhile ever is. It takes work to grasp the intricacies of these two sonatas, and certainly every new audition of these pieces will reveal new and interesting levels of structure and beauty. Therefore, even though this CD is not for the musically meek of heart, those brave enough to venture into some new territory will reap copious awards. Personally, I hope to listen to these pieces many more times in the years to come and cannot wait to hear new projects from Kalevi Aho or Marjut Tynkkynen. Bravo!

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