On June 9, I look forward to giving the Canadian premiere of Sofia Gubaidulina’s magnificent accordion concerto, Fachwerk, with Esprit Orchestra in Toronto’s iconic Koerner Hall. I hope to see you there! Read on for more details…
I believe Fachwerk (2009) is among the best and most exciting works that exist for accordion today. The concerto is scored for accordion solist, string orchestra, and percussion. It has been performed hundreds of times around the world, but not yet in Canada.
Preparing this concerto became a deep personal passion. In September 2021, I travelled to Iceland to hear Geir Draugsvoll (for whom it was written) rehearse and perform the concerto with the Iceland Symphony. He was very generous; we had all our meals together that week, and he shared the story of Fachwerk with me, including his 30-year history with the composer, the evolution of the cadenza, and his experiences performing it—now over 50 times.
Sofia Gubaidulina, one of the world’s foremost living composers, has written 14 works for accordion from solo sonatas to concerti. She was born in the Tatar Republic of the U.S.S.R. but has resided in Hamburg since 1992. Her music is deeply linked to her spirituality and, in the case of Fachwerk, the structure of the accordion itself.
Fachwerk literally means “Wooden Scaffolding” and refers to a style of German architecture where the structural wooden beams are exposed and the joints are visible, forming crosses. The modern concert accordion has several button layouts on one instrument; Gubaidulina’s idea was for the accordionist to play the same button sequence with both hands, but on different button systems so that the mirrored actions produce different tones. Gubaidulina then found an ingenious way to turn this concept into a beautiful cadenza, by locating starting points for each hand that, when layered, sound haunting, austere, and sublime. Hence, she recounts, “The accordion itself wrote the cadenza,” from which the entire concerto blossomed.