Mention the accordion, and most people think of Weird Al Yankovic, or a polka band. What they won’t think of is an instrument capable of serious artistic expression. And certainly not one that belongs in the classical world.
Bjarke Mogensen is out to change that perception with this new recording, Accordion Concertos. In it, he performs four concertos. All have been written within the last half century, and two specifically for Mogensen.
Ole Schmidt‘s Symphonic Fantasy and Allegro starts off the program. It’s a fairly traditional-sounding work, with the soloist and ensemble having clearly defined roles. Rich harmonies support the fluid melodies, which make this work an appealing one to listen to. Although most of the solo work on this recording is single line, Schmidt writes some interesting counterpoint into the cadenzas.
Anders Koppel composed the Concerto Piccolo for Mogensen, and the concerto shows the artist’s ability to best advantage. The work is an angular neo-classical composition that’s well suited to the tonal qualities of the accordion. In my opinion, it’s the strongest work on the album.
In Liquid, another commission by Mogensen, is radically different. Martin Lohse‘s work is almost a study in slow motion. Lohse draws out every single note both from the ensemble and the soloist. The sensation is similar to trying to run underwater. And the enforced slowness of the composition makes the listener pay closer attention to the music as it passes by. An effective work, and one that completely removes the accordion from its popular roots.
As its name suggests, Recall by Per Norgard, harkens back to the roots of the instrument. While at times it threatens to devolve into sea chanty, at heart it’s a carefully composed showpiece full of energy and good spirits.
These are fresh, exciting works that succeed both presenting the accordion in a new way and being an enjoyable listening experience. Whether you’re after fresh sounds, virtuoso performances, or just plain good music-making, this recording fills the bill.
Accordion Concertos: Ole Schmidt, Anders Koppel, Martin Lohse, Per Norgard
Bjarke Mogensen, accordion; Danish National Chamber Orchestra; Rolf Gupta, conductor