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Music Scores Review: Modus Musiikki Oy
Musiikkia harmonikalle (Music for Accordion)

Solo Accordion Music

Chamber Music with Accordion

Publisher:Modus Musiikki Oy
PO Box 82
57101 Savonlinna

Phone 015-510 552
FAX 015-510 553

Review by Henry Doktorski:

Modus Musiikki Ltd is a Finnish music publishing company (founded in 1987) which publishes classical music and teaching material. During its first ten years of existence, Modus Musiikki published over 100 titles, including about 300 compositions from 40 different composers.

In addition to modern Finnish classical music, Modus Musiikki has published a considerable amount of modern Finnish chamber music. About 40 of these chamber music compositions were composed between 1983-97 for the national chamber music competitions for young musicians, organized by Juvenalia College of Music. In addition to traditional classical instruments, such as piano, organ, string instruments, wind instruments, choir and voice, Modus Musiikki has also published a considerable amount of classical music for the accordion and the kantele (a Finnis psaltery or board zither).

The following is taken from the Editor's Preface:

Following is a brief description of the music:

Solo Accordion Music

  • Kalevi Aho: Sonata No. 1 (1984/89), dur: 26'

    Sonata No. 1 is a monumental work; in my opinion, it is probably the most technically demanding (and perhaps artistically rewarding) piece written for accordion to date. Composer Kalevi Aho wrote, "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 therefore demands of the performer a phenomenal technique and an ability to recognise large overall forms. The sonata was composed for a free bass accordion with studs -- an ingenious manual system that allows extremely wide spans and figures that cannot be obtained on any other instrument.

    The first movement contains a broad passacaglia and the second a triple fugue. Towards the end both movements become so complex in texture that they create the impression of a sort of 'superpolyphony.' The basic musical material is the same in both movements: a liberally applied twelve-tone row."

  • Kalevi Aho: Sonata No. 2 (Black Birds) (1990), dur: 18'20

    Kalevi Aho wrote, "In this second sonata for accordion, I have tried above all to explore the accordion world of timbre. Technically it again taxes the performer to the extremes, demanding the utmost sensitivity and a sovereign command of the instrument. In seeking new vistas on the world of timbre I resorted not so much to special effects, which are in fact somewhat limited in number, as to chordal effects and the combination of various types of structure.

    Each of the five movements in the sonata was inspired by bird song -- not that of any specific species, for the bird song in this work is the abstract twittering of the imagination and dream. . . . I have dedicated both the first and the second sonata to Marjut Tynkkynen."

    These two sonatas have been recorded by Marjut Tynkkynen and reviewed on the pages of The Free-Reed Review.

  • Timo-Juhani Kyllonen: Sonatina Op. 11 (1986), dur: 6 pages

    Kyllonen's Sonatina is a short work for the intermediate student (the left-hand is not difficult) which can be played either on piano or accordion. The piece alternates between fast moving 16th note sections and slower moving sustained sections.

  • Matti Murto: Images of Summer (1995), dur: 15'

    This work is a delightful series of etudes of intermediate difficulty for the free-bass accordion; obviously for younger students, as I ascertained by the cute drawings at the top of each piece. It was a real pleasure for me to read through these pieces, which at times reminded me a little of Bela Bartok's masterpiece of pedagogical literature, Mikrokosmos.

    The first movement has canonic elements: the shepherd's pipe tune is first heard in the right hand, then echoed in the left hand. Morning Mist consists of a series of sustained r.h. chords with a melodic bass line. The third movement, Woodpecker rat-tat-tatted along with some really clever rhythmic figures alternating between the two hands. Brook had a moto perpetua flowing figure which called to mind some of the piano writing in Schubert's Trout Quintet. The other movements are just as descriptively clever as the first four. Truly a wonderful work for students (and teachers!) of the free-bass accordion.

  • Matti Murto: Little Suite for Accordion (1984), dur: 7 pages

    This suite, originally published by Hellasendition, is another study of medium difficulty for students of the free-bass accordion. As in Images of Summer, the writing is contrapuntal and rhythmical. The second movement, Prelude, is one of the few pieces in the Modus catalog (besides Dreamtrain and Astory), which had a left-hand part for a stradella accordion.

    Chamber Music with Accordion

  • Timo-Juhani Kyllonen: Dreamtrain (1982) for violin and accordion, dur: 5'

    In 1982, Timo-Juhani Kyllonen composed the music for a Finnish TV film about an eight-year-old boy who traveled to school by train and dreamed of different things. Later, Kyllonen wrote a separate work for violin and accordion based on the film score. The piece is written for the standard stradella-bass accordion, making it a welcome addition for those accordionists who do not have free-bass instruments.

  • Matti Murto: Dancing Suite for Violin and Accordion (1991/92) dur: 22 pages.

    This four-movement suite is aptly titled, as it moves quickly. With the exception of the tango, all movements are rapidly paced. Both instruments play thematic material; the accordion is not relegated merely to the background as an accompanying instrument. For the intermediate student.

  • Matti Murto: Divertimento (1989) for violin, cello and accordion, dur: 12 pages

    This binary work consists of four sections: andantino, allegro, andantino and allegro (A B A' B'). The writing here seems more difficult than the other Murto works and would be appropriate for advanced students.

  • Mari-Matti Saira: Astory (1991) for violin, accordion, piano and double-bass, dur: 10 pages.

    This piece for quartet is the most ambitious (texturally speaking) of the entire Modus accordion catalog. It is composed of three movements, allegro zefiroso, chorale (with a 16 measure rubato introduction for piano), and allegro amabile ma precipitando al fine. The latter movement contains a section marked rock-tango solo in the piano part.

  • Heikki Valpola: Marilina (1987) for accordion and piano, dur: 10'

    Marilina consists of four movements: Preludio, Energico, Teneramente and Misterioso-con brio. Pierre Gervasoni wrote, "The explosive beginning of Marilina is vastly akin to a theatrical overture: the listener can almost see the curtain rising. . . . the Preludio, which, having executed a host of suspended figures, settles down to a noble chorale (too grandiose, however, to be really sincere), or again a finale that brusquely abandons the semblance of a mystery to introduce a colourful procession of characters plucked from the wings. Valpola the miniaturist appears to take pleasure in exploiting motifs either rhythmical (the ostinato driving the second movement to a breathless volubility a la Prokofiev) or melodical (the sibyllic theme of the Teneramente sequence -- varied, nuanced, and refined with great economy of means).

    This piece was recorded by Matti Rantanen and other members of the Sibelius Academy on the CD Fire Making.

  • Heikki Valpola: To Make a Fire (1992) for accordion, piano & percussion, dur: 9'

    Fire Making plays upon the established rules of harmony (both in the evanescing expression of Smoke and in the dreamlike projection of Sparkles the tonal harmony is unclear and difficult to classify) and again of rhythm in placing the harmonies in a regular basic rhythm (Exorcism). This invocation of fire does not indeed suggest a rational approach to work, but rather a desire to exploit a primitive form of expression until all the elements have reached their saturation point. -- Pierre Gervasoni

    The work is difficult and suitable only for advanced players. This piece was recorded by Matti Rantanen and other members of the Sibelius Academy on the CD Fire Making.

  • Heikki Valpola: Ludes (1988) for violin, cello and accordion, dur: 6' 30

    "Valpola's writing presents itself as ceaseless voyages on either side of the surface of the water. The journey usually begins with consonant sounds that are soon abandoned either by taking an adventurous plunge into the troubled waters of atonality or by a carefully-meditated rise to spheres ruled by translucent harmony. These voyages permit both the composer and the interpreter a playful approach. To persuade oneself of this one only has to savour the instrumental salt of Ludes: a pinch of pizzicato here (on cello or violin), a hint of bellow-shakes there. . . Whereas the lyrical sensitivity of the Prelude and Postlude once again manifests the elegance of Valpola's expression, the free kinetic energy of the Interlude creates a picture of the composer's mode of progression: that of a curious child making numerous detours along the path through life. Although the composer disassociates himself from the prevailing fashions and fads, his musical explorations nevertheless develop into a broad, personal synthesis of all the expressive new energies generated by our century." -- Pierre Gervasoni

    This piece was recorded by Matti Rantanen and other members of the Sibelius Academy on the CD Fire Making.

  • Heikki Valpola: Three Dances (1988) for cello and accordion, dur: 7' 30

    "The utterly peaceful mood [of Three Dances] is once again revealed as being inestimably shattered, until the rough texture is finally regenerated as a rich melodic texture. This is not, however, a true contrapuntal process but an almost natural proliferation of a melody that branches out in numerous ramifications of the greatest refinement. But Valpola does not take his outpouring to the very limits. He interrupts it, and even more violently with an outburst of clusters exhaled by the accordion. Could this gesture, which recurs throughout the work, be interpreted as a sense of modesty on the part of the composer; as an inner obligation to draw a veil over such intimate revelations? The sensibility of this refined musician seems nevertheless to lie in this delicately veiled area, in the emotions that are not given voice." -- Pierre Gervasoni

    This piece was recorded by Matti Rantanen and other members of the Sibelius Academy on the CD Fire Making.

    I heartily congratulate Modus Musiikki Oy for their significant contribution to the advancement of the accordion in classical music.

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