Contemporary Classics August 18, 2020 The Accordion in Contemporary Classical Music

Tonight’s Contemporary Classics is an exploration of the accordion as an instrument in the contemporary classical music repertoire.  It was inspired by two works.  Last year I heard for the first time the music of João Jeh-Oh Pedro Oliveira, a Portuguese composer.  One work on that album was his L'Accordéon Du Diable for solo accordion and electronics.  Then earlier this year Iranian-American composer Anahita Abassi invited me to I listen to a live streamed performance of her work Schattenfragmente for solo accordion.  Both of these works opened my ears and heart to the world of the classical accordion, which before that exposure I though of nothing but Astor Piazzolla.  I hope in tonight’s show to similarly share with you the range of accordion music that is in the classical music repertoire

Born in 1959 in Lisbon, Portugal  João Jeh-Oh Pedro Oliveira studied organ performance and composition at the Gregorian Institute of Lisbon and architecture at the Fine Arts School of Lisbon. In 1985 he moved to the United States as a Fulbright scholar with a fellowship from Gulbenkian Foundation where he completed two Master's Degree in Music and a Doctorate in Composition at the University of New York at Stony Brook.   He is presently the Corwin Chair of Composition at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

In writing Sequenza XIII for Accordion “Chanson”, Berio was immediately confronted with popular music immediately associated with the instrument and wrote "from the melody accompanying trips to the countryside to the songs of the working class, from night clubs to Argentine tango, to jazz".   The problem then arose of paying a common tribute to all these accordion traditions.  In this sense, the Sequenza XIII for accordion is a succession of accompanied melodies, in an always hushed atmosphere.  The accordion is initially polyphonic and then incorporates this music into the more 20th century context.

This album The Wanderer is another phenomenal Pauline Oliveros re-issue from Important Records, 'The Wanderer' originally surfaced back in 1984 and is a collection of her seminal accordion work and a companion record to the hugely influential 'Accordion & Voice'. The first piece on the album which we are playing here Duo for Accordion & Bandoneon is a peculiar meditation in restrained playing and silence, sounds emerge from the instruments and then drop into nothingness just as quickly as they had arrived. It's strange but you begin to sink deeper and deeper into the quality of the room, the recording itself as you hear the two musicians (Oliveros is joined by bandolion player David Tudor) shuffling in their chairs and pressing their fingers against the keys. 

To fully understand the accordion Sofia Gubaidulina studied the accordion with the Russian player Friedrich Lips‚ and as a result she exploits its resources of the accordion to the full.  De profundis, written in 1978) starts with a slow chorale makes repeated – eventually successful – attempts to rise from troubled darkness to bright light. De profundis is a demonstration of all the remarkable things that the accordion can do. 

Schattenfragmente (shadow fragments) is a piece for solo Accordion. The piece is the result of one year exploration and close collaboration with the accordionist Bernd Kohlhofer.   Abbasi writes the “Accordion is like a whole orchestra or also like an organ. Almost anything could be possible. At the same time, it breathes and is alive (due to the bellows).  I found it also fascinating to build a kind of stereo effect, conversation/dialogue between right hand and left hand, in which the border of the sound is not clear. The listener feels that , he/she is in a cloud or shadows of sounds, which are moving all the time and surrounding the listener.  The whole piece is built on the first material. The rest is just other aspects of this particular “sound” . This element will develop and transform into different kinds of shapes and filters.”

The composer Ann Cleare writes:  The piece sets into motion a physical force, which dissects the instrument into acute shards or material and reconstitutes it in a completely restructured manner. As if one were to take the pieces of a broken egg and glue them back together in such a way that the original oval shape is hardly recognisable.  Through this forceful dissection also comes disruption: as one sonic particle takes lead, it is interrupted, resulting in a new form or organisation emerging: each element of the disorganisation being recontextualised within the next disorganisation. This deconstructive force creates a motion that breaks, ruptures, diverts, convolutes, and coils up on itself so that fragments of the accordion are pulverised together, swirl around one another like clouds, rotate, implode or turn themselves inside out.  Also the space in which the placing and direction of these objects is continuously revaluated: as a certain spatial motion evolves, another intervenes, scrambling it and so a spatial direction of a different nature emerges. These perspectival shifts allow one to zoom in and out on certain fragments of the resynthesised instrument. 

Estonian composer  Erkki-Sven Tüür was born in 1959.  His Prophecy is a concerto for accordion and orchestra written in 2007 and has a deep mystic background,  The title referring to the extremely long and rich practice through the history of different cultures and traditions of "seeing things".  The music reflects energetic levels of this phenomenom through a fine display of harmony and texture in a style all the composer’s own. While it is a concerto, the exhibitionism of the soloist is clearly subordinate to more serious aims.  

Svend Aaquist is a Danish composer and conductor.  Music greatly influenced by Schoenberg, Stockhausen and Pendereski.  He was one of the first Danish composers of his generation to move into electronic music and the use of computers for music performance. 

  • 8:04pm João Pedro Oliveira: L'Accordéon Du Diable by Marie Martonova-Kormanova, accordion and Electronics on Maelström (Phonedition Records), 2010
  • 8:15pm Luciano Berio: Sequenza XIII for Accordion “Chanson” by Stefan Hussong on Berio: The Complete Sequenzas, Alternate Sequenzas (Mode Records), 2006
  • 8:30pm Pauline Oliveros: Duo for Accordion & Bandoneon by Pauline Oliveros & David Tudor on The Wanderer (Important Records ), 1984
  • 8:46pm Sofia Gubaidulina: De profundis by Peter Katina on Solo: Works for Accordion (Hevhetia ), 2012
  • 8:59pm Contemporary Classics August 18, 2020 The Accordion in Contemporary Classical Music Part 2 by Accordion in Contemporary Classical Music on Contemporary Classics
  • 9:01pm Anahita Abbasi: Schattenfragmente by Adam Ørvad, Accordion on Live recording of the Denmark premiere, on 03. November. 2019 at Utzon Center, Aalborg, Denmark (Live), 2019
  • 9:14pm Ann Cleare: I Am Not A Clockmaker Either by Magali Boissier (Accordion) on Contemporary Music From Ireland, Volume Ten (CMC Recordings ), 2011
  • 9:24pm Erkki-Sven Tüür: Prophecy for Accordion and Orchestra by Mika Väyrynen, Helsingin Kaupunginorkesteri & Olari Elts on Tüür: Symphony No. 5 & Prophecy for Accordion and Orchestra (Ondine Records), 2014
  • 9:45pm Svend Aaquist: Saga Night by Hanzhi Wang, accordion on On the Path to H.C. Andersen (Naxos), 2018
  • 9:59pm ventriloquism-for-dummies-7-28-2020 by on Single
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