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Frode Haltli, the uniquely expressive Norwegian accordionist, is heard here with chamber orchestra, with string quartet and solo, performing music by Danish composers Bent Sørensen (b. 1958) and Hans Abrahamsen (b. 1952). Haltli plays Sørensen’s It is Pain Flowing Down Softly on a White Wall with the Trondheim Soloists, as well as the solo piece Sigrid’s Lullaby. Hans Abrahamsen’s Three Little Nocturnes find the accordionist in the company of the redoubtable Arditti Quartet, “a vital institution in contemporary music” as Haltli says. 

For the title composition Air, Hans Abrahamsen returned, at Frode Haltli’s suggestion, to the early solo work Canzona, revising it until it became a new piece. Of Abrahamsen’s music, Frode Haltli writes that “not one note is accidental, nor are any of the other specifications. Sometimes, this results in very complex music, while a moment later it is so simple that it seems a child could perform it. He writes music that can be on the verge of being discomforting, while at the same time it is indescribably lovely.” 

Haltli acknowledges that the music of Bent Sørensen has been an influence on his development as a player. Sørensen composed the demanding Looking on Darkness (later the title track of Haltli’s ECM debut) for Frode’s first concert in Copenhagen, forcing him “to discover new ways of thinking and of playing my instrument, which I have continued to work on for many years, also in the field of improvisational music, and in other contexts than classical music.” In the same spirit It is Pain Flowing Down Softly on a White Wall challenges perceptions of what can be achieved on the accordion through tone control and nuances in soft dynamics. On the present recording, Haltli’s accordion blends into and out of the sound of the Trondheim Soloists’ nine violins, three violas, three cellos and double bass. Towards the end of the piece the Trondheim musicians take up melodicas, to create textures which seem like a ghostly echo of the accordion. 

All of the music on the present disc was written for Frode Haltli, with the exception of Sigrid’s Lullaby, which derives from Bent Sørensen’s set of nocturnes for piano. “The piece flows easily into the adjacent but so different space of the accordion,” Paul Griffiths observes in his booklet essay. “The lullaby is repeated again and again, slowly dissolving in the waters of time.”
Frode Haltli was born in Levanger, Norway, in 1975, and began playing the accordion at the age of seven. As a child he played folk music but soon moved into different forms, playing music by composers such as Pietr Fiala, Per Nørgård, Arne Nordheim as well as classical music. Contemporary composition, improvisation and traditional music are amongst the areas he explores today.

Halti’s debut CD Looking on Darkness was released on ECM in 2002, with new music from Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland, including compositions of Bent Sørensen, Asbjørn Schaathun, Magnus Lindberg, PerMagnus Lindborg, and Maja Solveig Kjelstrup Ratkje. On his 2007 recording Passing Images, he was joined by trumpeter Arve Henriksen, viola player Garth Knox, and vocalist Maja Ratkje, for a selection of lyrical explorations of folk themes in the context of improvised music. 

Over the last decade Halti has also worked extensively with saxophonist Trygve Seim, including the 2008 duo recording Yeraz. Frode Halti also appears on Seim’s newest recording Rumi Songs, alongside soprano Tora Augestad and cellist Svante Henryson . 

The Trondheim Soloists ensemble was founded in 1988 in Trondheim, Norway, and quickly
established its reputation as a versatile chamber group. A long running collaboration with 
Anne-Sophie Mutter, including recordings of Vivaldi and Bach, brought the ensemble to the 
best-seller lists. Other soloists who have worked often with them include Ben Caplan, Leif 
Ove Andsnes, Martin Fröst, Joshua Bell, Ole Edvard Antonsen, and Arve Tellefsen.

The Arditti Quartet, founded by violinist Irvine Arditti in 1974, is widely recognised as one of the world’s foremost contemporary chamber ensembles. The quartet has won many awards, and was the first ensemble to receive the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize for Lifetime Achievement. Earlier recordings on ECM include an album of String Quartets by Peter Ruzicka and Gavin Bryars’s Three Viennese Dancers. 

CD booklet includes a liner essay by Paul Griffiths, a performer’s note by Frode Haltli, and photography by Fotini Potamia

© Studio Svengali, May 2024
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