Øivind Farmen

Norwegian Safari

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The curious Norwegian Safari title of this release from Norway's Society of Composers appears to be nothing more than sheer fancy. What is on offer here is a collection of contemporary Norwegian accordion music, all solo except for one violin-and-piano work, Terje Bjørklund's Meditatio, which as, accordionist Øivind Farmen noted, is a different animal when played by violin and accordion. This may not threaten Lady Gaga's run at the top of the charts, but it's an interesting collection of contemporary virtuoso pieces. All the works, Farmen remarked in his notes (in Norwegian and English), "explore the ambiguous territory of timbral similarities and the relationship between classical structure and informal styles." The first part of this phrase means very little, and the second is primarily applicable to Erlend Skomsvoll's Stykke for Trekkspill and to Bjørklund's piece, both of which have hints of jazz and popular music. Skomsvoll is the only one of the group to make much use of conventional tonality; the works by Håkon Berge and Wolfgang Plagge explore abstract patterns (a garland and Plagge's titular fractals, respectively). Antonio Bibalo's Sonata quasi una fantasia refers only in the loosest sense to classical structure. The most fun for the general listener may be Sigmund Lillebjerka's Dazzle Dance, a high-spirited piece that, in Farmen's words, "exploits the contrasts between the instrument's laid-back, viscous qualities and its dance-like, merry-go-round character." The accordion, which balances connotations of popular style with an almost electronic-like range of timbres, has a small but distinct presence in avant-garde scenes in both classical music and jazz, and this little disc should expand that presence.

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