Raimondas Sviackevicius: A Farewell To Arms
Raimondas Sviackevičius’ CD recording offers contemporary accordion music of an intellectual nature. There are no Piazzolla tangos, or involvement of the accordion as a folk music instrument; however, there are hints of jazz and rock here and there. The heart of the programme, Sofia Gubaidulina’s work on a religious subject – “De profundis” – can be called a classic of contemporary music for accordion, as well as of a new approach to this instrument. Works such as “Alone” by the Finnish composer Erkki Jokinen, “Phantasie 84” by the German composer Jürgen Ganzer, and “Preambolo & Toccata” by the prematurely deceased Polish composer and accordionist Bogdan Precz are often included in concert repertoires for solo accordionists. Contemporary Lithuanian music for accordion is represented here by three generations of composers: Nomeda Valančiūtė’s “A Farewell to Arms”, Feliksas Bajoras’ “Aliatyvas”, and “Dialogues” for accordion and bassoon by Jonas Tamulionis, who is perhaps the most engaged composer of music for accordion in present-day Lithuania.
The CD content is compiled so that the music for accordion, as well as the capabilities of the instrument and the skill of the performer are revealed in as multifaceted way as possible. It starts with Erkki Jokinen’s (b. 1941) “Alone”, which introduces the various colours of the accordion’s registers. The music seems to emerge out of silence and solitude, and return thereto with a final dissolving sound. Predominant here are harmonically rather “amorphous” sound fields, with an almost Bach-like choral – accompanied by a lively aleatoric counterpoint – developing towards the dénouement of the musical action. The basic material consists of little percussive clusters and active blocks of sound in a dialogue between static and agressive material. This work is an introduction to the “independent spirit in Finnish musical life,” as the composer Erkki Jokinen, who has been outside the social mainstream of music making for quite some time, is known.
“Phantasie 84” by accordionist and composer Jürgen Ganzer (b. 1950) presents the other, more traditional world of accordion music. We hear not only a more conventional structure, but also a more traditional technique of playing. While listening to this recording, we can visualize how the “fan” of the accordion bellows unfolds at the beginning of the piece. Following this introduction comes scattered toccata-like sixteenth notes that build various motifs. Here one can find traces of the German, Bachian tradition; on the other hand virtuosic texture uncovers the composer’s own impressive performing skills. Jürgen Ganzer himself performs a lot, with both chamber and large ensembles as well as with jazz projects, and is a member of many competition juries (in 1996 he was chairman of the C.I.A. Coupe Mondiale accordionist competition jury).
Nomeda Valančiūtė’s (b. 1961) “A Farewell to Arms” is an expanded work, a particular kind of accordion monologue. In this piece, the composer requires the performer to “speak from the heart”: it is impossible to convey this music logically without having comprehended and assimilated it. There are some programmatic elements in this work – e.g., at the beginning, when we apparently hear faint shots (the performer knocking on the instrument). One cannot, however, link the further development of the music – hypnotic, motivated as well as contrasting – to any sort of programme, no matter how suggestive we find both the nostalgic theme that appears towards the end, and the episode which runs throughout and ultimately concludes the work, which is based on a playful, maybe even “childishly” repetitive motif (one probably created on the principle of sutartinės – old Lithuanian polyphonic folk songs).
“An attempt to bid farewell to my own arms – to the means of expression I used in my works for a long time. To bid farewell to them by exposing them once more, even if fragmentarily – deconstructing and reconstructing, redirecting and reconcealing them ... Rectifying them. Still I am under their domination.” (Nomeda Valančiūtė)
The focal point of the CD is the celebrated Sofia Gubaidulina’s (b. 1931) “De profundis”. The work, written in 1980 for the Russian accordion virtuoso Friedrich Lips, is complex, though not in the traditional sense. It has many very eloquent and refined episodes that merge one into another. The introductory low sounds of “De profundis” are associated with the “darkness”, out of which, according to the Bible, “we call to the Lord” (“De profundis” are the first words of Psalm 130). Further on in the development – a heavy, anguished rising and finally a brightening – of the music, we seem to find ourselves in a higher sphere of the universe... The composer uses harmonic turns typical of Orthodox hymns, elsewhere the accordion imitates an organ, the bellows blowing air with no sound are reminiscent of a fluttering of angels, there is a monodic pensive prayer, and the work concludes with the heavenly “singing of birds.” One can follow the development of the music in a reading of the Psalm, for each episode of the work is truly expressive.
“Aliatyvas”, by the celebrated Lithuanian composer Feliksas Bajoras (b. 1934). When the author was looking for the title, he came across the Latin word “alius” – in the meaning of “different”, “alien” –, from which he created the word “Aliatyvas”. By this short composition he describes something different from and even opposite to the usual thoughts, the ordinary way of our onesided world, to show that there is still a different aspect. In his mind, a person who creates, who carries, such ideas, is lonely and secluded. Referring to this he describes the music of “Aliatyvas” as the sound of an “Alien”. Work takes on the role of a noble, slow moving intermezzo between the two larger works – the aforementioned “De profundis”, and “Dialogues” for accordion and bassoon by Jonas Tamulionis (b. 1949). Jonas Tamulionis writes a great deal for the accordion, he is also very fond of the guitar, and has written a fair number of works for the birbynė (a Lithuanian folk wind instrument). The composer has written 29 opuses for the accordion, and won the special jury prize in Italy for his “Ten études” for accordion (1995). “Dialogues”, unlike the other works on this CD, is clearly neo-classical in expression, while the sound and specifics of the bassoon playing gives it new colours. It is a polyphonic three-movement cycle: the first scherzo-like movement, written on the principle of fugue, has a distinctive and “objective” neo-classical element; the second movement is of a more free structure, and could be called a neo-classical “adagio”; and the finale returns to the motoric movement. Emerging towards the end, with the bassoon maintaining the rhythmic energy, are some jazzy undertones.
The CD ends with “Preambolo & Toccata” (dedicated to Friedrich Lips) by the Polish accordionist and composer Bogdan Precz (1960–1996), a resident of Spain. The piece brings us back to the world of more subjective musical experiences, one which is perhaps more in tune with the inherent nature of the accordion. The fact that the work was written by a practising performer is evident both in the texture and in the musical development – the sounds flow naturally, as if improvised. Listening to it, we can guess at yet another aspect of Bogdan Precz’s artistic biography – he played not only classical, but jazz and rock music as well, and he liked mixed formats in general. The “Preambolo” is slow, somewhat nostalgic, and in no way reveals the cheerful turn in the musical development which happens in the “Toccata”, shortly after the bright “mediaeval” cadence. The toccata-like quality here stems from hard-driving ostinato, resembling bass guitar riffs in rock music.
|Darsteller||Raimondas Sviackevicius, Andrius Puplauskis|