Accordion Concertos

Rival Danish labels showcase the country’s resurgent accordion tradition

Author: 
Richard Whitehouse

Wingspan: Contemporary Danish Accordion Music

  • Sonata for Accordion No. 2, 'Burlésco'
  • Couronne
  • Yemayá
  • Canzone
  • Vingefang (Wing Span)
  • Épreuve
  • Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue
  • Prélude, fugue et variation
  • Toccata
  • Pastorale
  • Overture (Partita) in the French style
  • Symphonic Fantasy and Allegro
  • Concerto Piccolo for Accordion and Strings
  • In Liquid..., Concerto for Accordion and Orchestra
  • Recall, Concerto for Accordion and Orchestra

The accordion tradition is flourishing in Denmark, if these distinctive and complementary discs are anything to go by – showcasing two musicians for whom the possibilities of their instrument know few, if any, bounds.

Bjarke Mogensen has put together a diverse yet cohesive quartet of concertante works that span over half a century. Ole Schmidt duly sets the scene with Symphonic Fantasy and Allegro, its nonchalant take on sonata and rondo forms couched in an appealing idiom between Bartók and Copland. The laconic neo-classicism of Anders Koppel’s Concerto piccolo is no less direct, the ostinato rhythms of its outer movements imparting a discreet ominousness such as the elegant central Largo can only temporarily dispel, while Martin Lohse’s subtle interplay of soloist and orchestra across four movements of varied mood and tempo gives In Liquid… a more individual profile than its Pärt-meets-Glass amalgam might suggest. Unlike his often exploratory later concertos, Recall finds Per Nørgård revelling in the elision of folk and popular music with a panache very different from the often introspective pieces written as he investigated the possibilities of the ‘infinity series’.

Adam Ørvad’s ambitious recital is divided between two separate discs. The first focuses on contemporary Danish music and ranges from the pithy elegance of Vagn Holmboe’s Second Sonata to the improvisatory brilliance of Louis Aguirre’s Yemayá, with Hanne Ørvad’s Wing Span the highlight in its bracing fusion of expressive spontaneity with formal clarity. The second disc features classical works heard in Ørvad’s always ingenious transcriptions: Prokofiev’s Toccata must make a formidable recital encore, while the two pieces by Franck bring out the timbral and textural similarities between organ and accordion. The highlights, however, are the pieces by Bach – a composer whose indestructibility in any guise only partially explains the tensile brilliance brought to the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue or the irresistible rhythmic agility which informs the French Overture. It is a measure of Ørvad’s proficiency as transcriber that both of these works should sound as if written for the accordion – as idiomatic in realisation as they are involving in overtly emotional terms.

Mogensen benefits from spirited and attentive playing by the Danish National Chamber Orchestra, enhanced by Rolf Gupta’s attentive direction. Both discs are superbly recorded, the Dacapo sound securing a well-nigh ideal balance of soloist and ensemble, while that for Danacord gives the instrument ample space to ‘breathe’ without compromising its immediacy. Jens Cornelius contributes informative booklet-notes to the concerto disc, whereas Ørvad supplies his own succinct and thought-provoking annotations. Both of these releases can be cordially recommended to accordion aficionados and novices alike: the Danacord proffers something like the extent of what the instrument is now capable, while the Dacapo is pleasurable listening pure and simple.

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