13 May 2012 San Francisco Chronicle By Joshua Kosman
”How’s this for an improbable turn of events: The most beautiful, dramatic and sheerly irresistible disc of new music to cross my desk in months is a compilation of four Scandinavian accordion concertos. Well, believe it. In lively, thoughtful performances by the remarkable Danish virtuoso Bjarke Mogensen, these pieces – two of them written for him – showcase the instrument’s versatility and color. What’s remarkable, too, is the way none of the composers here shies away from the accordion’s various associations – the music here is at once modern and tuneful, rhythmic and comical”.
30 April 2012 The Globe and Mail (Canada) By Elissa Poole
“A virtuoso performance by the brilliant young Danish accordionist, Bjarke Mogensen.”
15 February 2010 “Lucid Culture, New York”
Making his North American debut, hotshot Danish accordionist Bjarke Mogensen joined the ensemble for a richly genre-blending, emotionally intense yet frequently very playful US premiere of Anders Koppel’s Concerto Piccolo. Koppel began his career as a rock musician while still in his teens, playing psychedelic pop with popular Danish export Savage Rose, but in the following years he moved to film music. This three-part suite proved as fascinating as it was well-played, leaping from jazzy, bass-driven Mingus-esque suspense to macabre Bernard Herrmann atmospherics to a surprisingly upbeat, subtly amusing conclusion. Mogensen matched a whirlwind attack through a knotty thicket of accidentals to several wrenchingly beautiful, minimalistically ambient passages…”
27 March 2011 www.scena.com Winter Sketches-cd-review By Norman Lebrecht
Remember Leif Ove Andsnes’s piano disc called The Long, Long Winter Night? This is the accordion equivalent – played, if that’s possible, with even greater virtuosity. Mogensen is amazing. He has stunning command of dynamics and an ability to create an atmosphere that pianists would kill for. Much of his material is Russian, recent and relatively obscure – such composers as Solotaryov, Repnikov and Kusyakov. But don’t be afraid of the dark. This is some of the most persuasive music making you will ever hear. When I posted one track on free download at Christmas, it outstripped most other releases.
3 March 2011 www.theartsdesk.com Winter Sketches cd-review, The Arts Desk By Graham Rickson
Winter Sketches: Russian Music for Accordion Bjarke Mogensen (Orchid Classics)
Tchaikovsky used four accordions in his Orchestral Suite No 2 of 1883, and Prokofiev wrote for the Russian bayan in the 1930s. This instrument has a long history in Russia – hence Bjarke Mogensen’s nicely chosen recital of folk-tinged music, a mixture of transcriptions and works originally composed for accordion. You can sense the vodka-tinged melancholy, and Mogensen’s playing is so subtly coloured and imaginative that there’s literally never a dull moment.
International Record Review Accordion Concertos 01 July 2012 International Record Review Martin Anderson
There seems to have been a sudden burst of interest in recording accordion repertoire in the last year or two, and so much the better. Part of the reason, of course, is the increase in the numbers of gifted young accordionists. The phenomenon began half a century ago in Denmark, and so it’s fitting that this CD and these musicians should carry on the tradition. The piece that started it all off, in fact, is the work at the start of this CD, the late Ole Schmidt’s Symphonic Fantasy and Allegro .
The story really begins in 1912, with the invention of the free-bass accordion, which liberated the instrument from the restrictions of previous versions, expanding its tonal and harmonic resource almost exponentially. Its potential went largely unnoticed until the advent of the Dane Mogens Ellegaard (1935-95), who began to play the accorcdion when he was eight but found as he grew up that there was almost nothing of any interest for him to perform. In 1957 the light-music composer Vilfred Kjaer wrote a concerto for him – ‘a work of light character’, as Ellegaard recalled, ‘ but anyway a beginning’. At that concert, also by coincidence, Ole Schmidt (1928-2010) was sitting in the audience. He didn’t like Kjaer’s composition, but liked the instrument, and told me this bluntly afterwards. So I challenged him to write something better. In 1958 he wrote Symphonic Fantasy and Allegro, Op. 20, for accordion and orchestra, which was the first really serious work for accordion written by a good composer. Bjarke Mogensen’s sparkling performance – given exemplary support by the Danish National Chamber Orchestra under the Norwegian Rolf Gupta – makes it plain why it made such an impact: not quite a quarter of an hour long, it’s cracking music, whatever the solo instrument might be. Sitting in a style somewhere between Hindemith and Vaughan Williams, it boasts contrapuntal clarity, a vigorous sense of onward drive and a steely good humour (something I discovered in Schmidt himself when we met around the time he conducted Brian’s ‘Gothic’ Symphony in 1980; he drank only champagne with lunch ‘as a concession to my doctor’). For someone who was launching a genre, Schmidt integrates the sounds of accordion and orchestra with astonishing fluency.
Anders Koppel’s Concerto Piccolo (2009) for accordion and strings is hardly less ingratiating. The first of its three movements (all around the five-six-minute mark), an Andante misterioso, sways forward with the accordion chattering to itself over a ticking accompaniment in the strings; the central Largo hints at a song theme, treated almost as background music for a 1950s film noir; and the ticking starts off the Allegretto scherzando finale as if it’s about to launch into Haydn’s ‘Clock’ Symphony but instead it remains an underlying ostinato as the accordion pirouettes above it and a tango rhythm gradually invades the texture.
I don’t recall previously hearing any music by the Hans Abrahamsen-student Martin Lohse (b.1971) – painter and poet as well as composer – but I shall certainly be keeping my ears open from now on, since his 16-minute In Liquid … (2008: an orchestral version of a work for accordion and piano from the year before) is unassertively lovely. It falls into four movements but the variety of moods obscures the structure in favour of an extended narrative. It opens with a disconsolate elegy over a pizzicato string bass; a march figure increases the excitement but soon fades, and a solo trumpet introduces a quasi-improvised cadenza, exquisitely rueful at first but increasingly assertive before the elegiac atmosphere of the opening returns. Lohse knows how to caress the ear and stimulate the mind at the same time: In Liquid … is all the more touching for the understatement of its emotional burden.
It’s astonishing that Per Nørgård’s Recall – written for accordion and symphony orchestra in 1968 and recast with chamber orchestra in 1977 – should be receiving its first recording only now, in this, his 80th-birthday year (the Koppel and Lohse works are also recorded premieres, as it happens). Not just because it’s Nørgård and thus worth close attention as a matter of course but because Recall is one of his most sheerly attractive works, ‘composed as a tribute to my recollections of the vitality of Balkan folklore’. The titles of the three movements – ‘Cantico Antico’, ‘Villanesca’ and ‘Rondino’ – give an indication of its light-hearted, buoyant appeal, with Nørgård tweaking the rhythms so that its energetic dances remain unpredictable. If you had Nørgård down as a ‘difficult’ composer – and his music can indeed be complex – here’s a work that requires nothing more than two ears and a sense of fun.
That’s perhaps the guiding spirit of this recital: though none of it is ‘light music’ in the general sense of the term, all four pieces start from the premise that life should be enjoyed, and here’s how. Mogensen, Gupta and colleagues catch that tone in their playing, with the result that the CD as a whole can hardly fail to make you feel better. I enjoyed every note of it and strongly suggest that you do yourself the same favour.
Review of Accordion Concertos by Gramophone: Accordion Concertos 01 July 2012 Gramophone Richard Whitehouse
“The accordion tradition is flourishing in Denmark (…) Bjarke Mogensen has put together a diverse yet cohesive quartet of concertante works that span over half a century. Ole Schimdt 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-classisism 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 Matin 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’.”
”Mogensen benefits from spirituel and attentive playing by the Danish National Chamber Orchestra, enhanced by Rolf Gupta’s attentive direction.”
”…superbly recorded, the Dacapo sound securing a well-nigh ideal balance of soloist and ensemble (…) Jens Cornelius contributes informative booklet-notes to the concerto disc (…) can be cordially recommended to accordian aficionados and novices alike (…)” ”…pleasurable listening pure and simple.”
Gramophone July 2012
This is an excerpt of a review of two different CDs published in Gramophone july 2012; this excerpt presents all content dealing with the CD ‘Accordion Concertos’.
” In classical recordings, it is generally the music that draws purchasers – but by no means always. Sometimes it is the chance to hear a specific performer’s virtuosity, or to hear high-quality playing of an unfamiliar instrument, that is the major attraction. For most listeners outside Denmark and other countries with a strong accordion tradition, the interest in a Dacapo SACD featuring Bjarke Mogensen will likely be more in the instrument he plays than in the specific works in which he plays it. The accordion generally has a less-than-stellar reputation in the musical world, and certainly is not a primary instrument of choice in classical compositions in most countries. But the four 20th- and 21st-century works played by Mogensen, if unlikely to change the general opinion of accordion music, at least show how it can be skillfully incorporated into traditional forms and can become far more emotionally expressive than it is usually considered to be. Two of the pieces here, Anders Koppel’s Concerto Piccolo (2009) and Martin Lohse’s In Liquid… (2008/2010), were specifically written for Mogensen, and it is easy to see why. He seems able to make the accordion into something it does not naturally appear to be: an instrument of considerable emotional range, tonal impact and sonic beauty. Both Koppel and Lohse demand accordion playing that is not only virtuosic but also refined and emotive, and Mogensen delivers it with seeming effortlessness throughout both pieces. He brings elegance and even charm to the two earlier works here as well: Per Norgård’s Recall (1968/1977) and Ole Schmidt’s Symphonic Fantasy and Allegro (1958), the latter being particularly interesting because it is a wholly traditional sort of display piece, written for an instrument that would not seem to be well-suited to the demands of such a work. In Mogensen’s hands, though, the accordion is not to be trifled with or taken lightly – it sounds as worthy of being studied and highlighted as other instruments.”
Debut concert from The Royal Academy 2012
When looking through the archives I came across my debut-evaluation:
The following text is a translation of the evaluation issued by the examiners after the public debut concert (on 7 March 2012) that marked the conclusion of Danish accordionist Bjarke Mogensen’s advanced postgraduate studies at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen. (Svend Ravnkilde, March 2014.)
Bjarke Mogensen’s public debut concert unfolded as the meeting between a master instrumentalist and an artist of no less impressive calibre.
The programme itself was spectacular and varied enough to quite overwhelm the audience and amongst other items offered no less than three concertos for the accordion with the Danish National Chamber Orchestra. It allowed Bjarke Mogensen to prove his superior mastery within a varied range of genres, spanning from the most exquisite Scarlatti sonata over folk music to newly-written contemporary scores. All the way through the evening, Bjarke Mogensen captivated the audience with his passionate musicianship, his acute sense of musical form and his superb timing.
Bjarke Mogensen’s technique is faultless and stunning (the clarity of his left hand is quite unique) and his control of sound is no less imaginative than it is absolute, meaning that he can vary his playing at will in order to offer the optimal interpretation of what to him are the special qualities of each piece.
When Bjarke Mogensen is alone on stage he seems merge with the work he is performing. When playing chamber music he listens to his colleagues and inspires them, and when he is the soloist in front of an orchestra he projects nothing but calm and authority. He plays well-nigh everything by heart, no mean feat on its own.
Bjarke Mogensen is already well on his way as an established contemporary master of his instrument, called upon to make prestigious appearances on the international stage. And his superior capability is further proven by the fact that he releases no less than two new CDs on the occasion of his debut concert.
Bjarke Mogensen’s talent as an entrepreneur was highlighted also by the sheer number of various musicians (other than the orchestra and himself) on stage during the evening and by the fact that no less than three works were given their world premieres.
Musically speaking, the evening left the audience in raptures, and one cannot but ask oneself: When did one ever hear the accordion played at this level of excellence?
It will prove exciting to follow the future career of this great artist.
External Censor: Jon Faukstad, Prof. accordion department of Oslo Academy of Music
Internal Censor: Niels Rosing-Schow, Prof. Composition department, Royal Academy of Music, Copenhagen
Mythos Accordion Duo: Music by Stravinsky, Borodin, Tchaikovsky and Mussorgsky (Orchid Classics)
Choral spendour, both modestly proportioned and on a vast scale. Along with the best accordion duo on the planet
Bjarke Mogensen and Rasmus Scjæff Kjøller’s duo take their name from the instruments they use – swanky Russian-made Pigini Mythos bayans, top-range members of the accordion family. As the sleeve notes point out, virtuosic players can perform the most extravagant of scores without compromising the music’s essence. A few seconds’ exposure to Mythos’s version of Stravinsky’s Petrushka will have most listeners grinning from ear to ear. The rhythmic punch, supernatural coordination and dynamic control on display are startling enough, but it’s the rasping, transfiguring effect of the bayan sound that’s key. This score sounds as if it could have been written for these players; both orchestral versions sound pale in comparism. Stravinsky’s cleverly filched folk and popular tunes have never sounded so authentic; it’s as if you’re witnessing the action whilst knocking back vodka in a seedy bar. The composer would have loved it.
The couplings add to the appeal – a sensitive transcription of Borodin’s In the Steppes of Central Asia and three witty numbers from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. Better still is a rasping, sweaty assault upon Mussorgsky’s Night on the Bare Mountain in the Rimsky Korsakov arrangement. Get past the entertaining fireworks to reach a slow, tacked-on epilogue that rarely sounds this convincing. This is a magical, life-enhancing disc – one that’s already pencilled in near the top of my provisional end-of-year Best of 2013 list. Go out now and buy multiple copies – it’s that good.
29 Oktober 2013 Støvet Pustet af den Klassiske Musik – Flensborg Avis Rigmor Eybye
“Aftenens super-solist, accordeon-spilleren Bjarke Mogensen stod for koncertens helt store positive oplevelse. En ny frisk blanding af orkesterklang plus accordeon. Ole Schmidts Symfonisk Fantasi & Allegro udfordrer den traditionelle forestilling om harmonika-hits-um-ba-ba og instruments odds i samspil med et symfoniorkester. Stykket byder på en veritabel kamp mellem accordeonet og orkestrets mange muligheder, men også på smuk forening. Stykket er fyldt med opmuntrende rytmer, og overraskende klange, og Mogensen mestrer sit instrument overlegent og tager gerne føringen. Før pausen gav Mogensen et solo-ekstranummer, igen blev man overrasket og instrumentets formåen hvad angår klassisk musik, idet en sonate af Domenico Scarlatti blev visket ren for klaverstøv og fremstod som en helt ny komposition.”
22 June 2013 Politiken DK
“Den unge akkordeonspiller Bjarke Mogensen kom til at stjæle billedet i Tivoli med bare 10 minutters kvittering for Dronning Ingrids Mindelegat i form af en stilfærdig aftensang af Tjajkovskij omskrevet til knapharmonikaens univers.I øvrigt med en lille salut til aftenens anden legatmodtager, den 19-årige balletdanser Ida Prætorius, et lille stykke påmonteret russiana fra komponistens ballet ’Svanesøen’. Mogensen er uanset sit utraditionelle instrument en mand, der kommer til at dominere koncertsalene med sin enorme musikalitet. Det kræver noget specielt at tryllebinde en hel koncertsal med to håndfulde toner og en godnatsang. Men det gjorde han.”
2 Aug 2006 Politiken DK
Jan Jacoby, Politiken 02-08-2006 :
‘Bjarke Mogensen åbnede sin soloafdeling med sit eget idiomatiske arrangement af J.S.Bachs populære Toccata i d-mol (som formentlig ikke er af Bach),
elegant og dynamisk spillet med fyndig gestik. De efterfølgende originalværker viste for alvor, hvad han går for. I russeren Sofia Gubaidulinas højekspressive’De Profundis’ er klang og bevægelse vigtigere end tonekonstellationer.
Musikken stønner, jamrer og sukker, forpint, men ikke på den ekshibitionistiskemåde, og genklange af russisk kirkemusik antyder målet for al denkvalfulde længsel.
Bjarke Mogensen indfangede stykkets uro og patos med fængslende umiddelbart kommunikerende hengivenhed, der gjorde de avantgardistiske virkemidler selvfølgelige og naturlige. Lige så afgørende for virkningen var en sikker formsans, der samlede de forskelligartede udtryk til sammenhængende udsagn i en fortløbende fortælling.
Mogensen spiller ud fra en komplet vision af musikken, og det blev helt krystalklarti en kort og koncis sonate af Vagn Holmboe, hvor trådene i de dejligt fremadstødende satsforløb blevsamlet og strammet med autoritativ klarhed. Der er grund til at forvente sig noget af den unge musiker.’
Af Jens Cornelius, www.dr.dk/p2 ugens cd Marts (2011)
“I søndags vandt han sammen med Rasmus Kjøller P2’s Kammermusikkonkurrence. De udgør accordeonduoen Mythos, der spiller kammermusik på højeste niveau. Og som Bjarke Mogensen spiller på sin første solo-cd må han ganske enkelt regnes for en af Danmarks bedste musikere … Bjarke Mogensen får instrumentet til at synge sart og fint. Det mekaniske element mellem musiker og lytter forsvinder på forunderligste vis … En overlegen demonstration af hvor lyrisk man kan spille på en accordeon”
“This release will convert the sceptic to contemporary classical music” – Politiken - by Thomas Michelsen, 11.08.15