Total Time: 60:54
Review Date: July 2002
Order from: Da Capo Records
Review by Steve Mobia
Though this recording isn't likely to convert traditional classical fans to new music, it can very much convince new music fans to the validity of the accordion as a highly versatile instrument for concert music. The players, led by master accordionists Geir Draugsvoll and James Crabb are constantly astonishing and Danish composer Klaus Ib Jørgensen's music is dense and challenging.
At times resembling the tone row pieces of the fifties and sixties, Jørgensen's busy textures have more incisive intensity than your average academic composition. Though eschewing tonality and obvious repetition of motive and theme, there are formal structures which generally unite the works and make the listening experience an exciting journey if one is prepared to leave the familiar. Jørgensen has great interest in contrast and surprise, sometimes to a fault as before one passage can establish a context, it is instantly replaced by something very different in effect.
Parodos is written for a small chamber orchestra, which is sometimes divided between clarinet/accordion and piano/cello/percussion. Led off by a metronomic pulse, music characters enter, flitting around the incessant beating B flat. After an accelerating telescopic climax, the beat vanishes and the accordion and clarinet enter in duet, loudly punctuated by percussion and piano. There follow many contractions and expansions, bursts of activity and soft undulations.
Cadenza was previously recorded by Draugsvoll on his Classical Accordion CD. This is a solo piece with high density of material generated and drawn from his earlier Temperature also included on this record. The jagged ingredients ricochet off each other and undergo constant transformation as time is pulled inward or compressed outward into ascending fountain-like phrases. Draugsvoll's attention to expressive detail in this performance shows his admiration for this complex work.
The next one Distortion Commentary for accordion ensemble and percussion is a big surprise. A simple medieval sounding melody against a lone drum opens the piece. This melody is completely deconstructed during its course; from sustained harmonic pile-ups, scrambled and squirmy figurations to wild manic reiterations. There is a particularly beautiful passage at the end that includes vibraphone.
Draugsvoll and Crabb play a duet together in Kommos. One takes the mid range, the other the high and low extremes but soon both merge in a super accordion capable of ferocious counterpoint and chord density. The forward movement sometimes glides, sometimes lurches as the instruments complete each other phrases. A low bluesy scale revisits from time to time, pulse patterns develop and fragment. The ending is astonishing with a low pedal tone, cascading arpeggios and a persistent alternating major 7th leading to a loud dissonant chord perfectly placed.
Temperature was the longer generating work for the solo Cadenza so some deja-vu by ensue as many of the accordion's phrases are identical. Still the aural environment is quite different as harp, horns, woodwinds and later strings add much color to the accordion's voice. The title is said to suggest various degrees of molecular activity as the "temperature" is turned up or down. After a passage of dazzling density, the music slows down to silence followed by a long solo for accordion with bubbling staccato percolations and subtle extended tones. This solo section goes on a bit too long as much of the excitement and invention had been expended earlier. Eventually the other instruments join in again for a short dissipated coda on a high pedal D sharp.
The recording quality is excellent though I would have liked more stereo separation between accordions. The booklet gives an interesting if abstract interpretation of Jørgensen's music.
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