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CD Review:

Maria Kalaniemi

Maria Kalaniemi, five-row button accordion
Timo Alakotila, piano, harmonium
Kimmo Pohjonen, Tanzanian thumb piano
Olli Varis, guitar
Sven Ahlback, fiddle
Arto Jarvelaa, nyckelharpa, fiddle
Bjorn Tollin, tambourine
Tapani Varis, electric bass


Hermannin Riili
Taklax I
Samuell Dikstromin Polska
Olin Sairas Kun Kuokseni saavuit
Yxi Kaunis Papillinen Polska
Taklax II
Varpusen Polska
Tahdet Taivahalla

total time: 40:01
Released in 1994
Review number and date: No. 57, July 1997

label: Xenophile (Green Linnet) (GLDC 4013)
Green Linnet Records, Inc.
43 Beaver Brook Road
Danbury CT 06810

telephone: 800-468-6644 (US only)

In Europe: Digelius Music
Laivurinrinne 2
00120 Helsinki

telephone: 358-0-666375
fax: 358-0-628950

Review by Henry Doktorski:

Maria Kalaniemi (born 1964) is one of the foremost accordionists in Finland; she completed seven years of study at the Sibelius Academy and now teaches there. In addition, she was a founding member of one of Finland's most popular contemporary folk music groups -- Niekku -- recognized as a pioneer of the "New Finnish Folk" movement.

From the driving accordion melody in Harmannin Riili (The Reel of Hermanni) -- a composite of the folk and jazz idioms -- to the deliciously sweet final accordion solo (Tahdet Taivahalla), Maria Kalaniemi's CD is a monument to the artistry of the folk accordion. Her accordion never shuts up during the entire album, but I didn't mind at all; her playing is dynamic yet sensitive, powerful yet gentle. I cannot praise this CD enough.

Taklax I, masterfully performed by fiddler Sven Ahlback, was taken from an early 1900 cylinder recording of the the Swedish fiddler Johan Erik Taklax who hailed from Korsnas in Southern Ostrobothnia. One of my favorite moments in the piece is the entrance of the low drone on the left-hand manual of the accordion; I found it positively exhilarating. Much of the album features interesting duet arrangements featuring the accordion and fiddle.

The tango, Olin Sairas Kun Luokseni Saavuit (I Was Sick When You Came To Visit Me) -- a tune taken from an old Gypsy melody -- features Timo Alakotila on piano, who provides a perfect accompaniment for Kalaniemi's accordion. I believe her rendition is faithful to the New Tango tradition founded by the late great Argentinean bandoneonist Astor Piazzolla; in this track Kalaniemi played her accordion remarkably like a bandoneon.

The accordion solo Tahdet Taivahalla is one of the most beautiful pieces on the entire CD and really shows Kalaniemi's artistry. The piece begins with a single monophonic melody in the right hand; plaintive and tranquil. Next the left hand enters; not with an accompaniment or counter-melody, but as a punctuation of the single line melody, playing now and then. The effect is beautiful and is a technique which -- to my knowledge -- only the free-bass accordion can exhibit. (This technique is also used in the fifth track.)

Farmorspolskan (Grandmother's Polska) is a Swedish tune from Alvdalen said to be made by Gyris Anders in the nineteenth century. Varpusen Polksa (Sparrow's Polska) originated from Liminka in Ostrobothnia and was taken from an 1870 transcription by Robert Lehrbach. Hjortingen is a traditional polska from Jhort Anders (1865-1952), one of the great fiddlers of his time, from Bingsjo in Dalarna, Sweden.

My complaint: this CD is ridiculously much too short! only 40 minutes.

None-the-less, I recommend this CD for all lovers of folk music.

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