Frode Haltli: Vagabonde Blu


Norwegian release: 26.09.2014
International release: 27.10.2014

Accordionist Frode Haltli is a musician we have admired tremendously for a long time, and we are proud to be releasing an album of his on the HUBRO label. Haltli has a unique ability to communicate, and seems to have a natural talent for swinging between a wide variety of musical styles. He can give life to “black page” music at contemporary music festivals one evening, and play with a bluegrass band the next – without stepping outside his musical comfort zone.
“Vagabonde Blu” is his fourth album under his own name, but his first true solo album. Here he presents works by Salvatore Sciarrino, Arne Nordheim and Aldo Clementi with a live audience in a room with such powerful and unusual acoustics that his playing is influenced by the room itself.
In 1926, artist Emanuel Vigeland (1875-1948) built a studio in his garden at Slemdal, Oslo. He intended it to function as a future museum for his sculptures and paintings, but he later bricked up the windows and decided that the building would serve as his own mausoleum. Vigeland’s urn rests above the low entrance door to Tomba Emmanuelle. “When your eyes get used to the darkness you can see the fantastic and grotesque fresco of life that covers the walls and ceiling in the vast, cold room. The massive acoustics produce a long and lively delay covering the entire register of sounds, and as a result it is nearly impossible to carry out a normal conversation. Silence usually prevails, because you instinctively whisper if you want to say something here,” writes Frode Haltli in the album’s cover notes. The hall has previously been used for recordings by Diamanda Galas, Huntsville, Susanne Sundfør and Stian Westerhus, among others.
“As a performer of primarily acoustic music, I always work together with the acoustics and the room. Here the room is such an active partner that it changes my music and my playing radically. I listen and wait, or I play offensively at the room so that it can be difficult to determine whether a sound is coming from the instrument, the echo, a combination of the two, or simply a member of the audience who accidentally touches his jacket. The acoustic performance is re-mixed live by a room.”
The two Italian composers Salvatore Sciarrino (b. 1947) and Aldo Clementi (1925-2011) were both born on Sicily. In Vagabonde blu (1998), Sciarrino undertakes a close study of tiny air and noise sounds, of notes and chords, and of glissandi and pianissimo. In the encounter with Vigeland’s room an extra dimension is added to the composition when the small, isolated events in the music are magnified by the acoustics.
Aldo Clementi writes, with reference to Ein kleines… (1998), that the music should be played like a lullaby. Simple, two-voiced variations of a modal theme are repeated again and again, while the dynamics and tempo are gradually reduced, like a long lullaby that accompanies a child into sleep.
Haltli has been playing Flashing (1985) by Arne Nordheim (1931-2010) since he was a teenager, and recorded the piece on “Arne Nordheim: Complete Accordion Works” (Simax 2012). “One of my principal intentions with that recording was to show the rich opportunities that exist for interpreting Nordheim’s music,” he says. In Tomba Emmanuelle, Nordheim’s solo work Flashing is transformed into a nearly electronic-sounding piece of music. “Surrounded by frescos of life and death, this becomes my homage to Nordheim: his music is hurled out into space, into the universe, into eternity.”
Frode Haltli (born 1975 in Norway) began to play the accordion at the age of seven. As a child he played primarily folk music, but he quickly began to approach a broader palette of musical genres and styles. By playing works by composers such as Pietr Fiala, Per Nørgård and Arne Nordheim as well as classical works, he has developed extremely advanced technical skills in addition to a profound understanding of contemporary music. Haltli studied at the Norwegian Academy of Music and later at the Royal Danish Academy of Music, where he completed his studies in 2000. In 2001 he was named Young Soloist of the Year by Concerts Norway, and won second prize in the international “Gaudeamus Interpreters Competition 1999” in the Netherlands.
Haltli’s repertoire includes a wide selection of modern classical works, and he has performed with string orchestras, Sinfoniettas and symphony orchestras all over the world. He has collaborated with the Arditti Quartet and several other string quartets.
His debut record, “Looking on Darkness”, was released by ECM in 2002 to highly favourable reviews. ECM also released the album “Passing Images”, where he played together with trumpet player Arve Henriksen, violist Garth Knox and vocalist Maja Ratkje, and the duo album “Yeraz”, a collaboration with saxophonist Trygve Seim. He played music with roots in the Norwegian folk music tradition in the band Rusk, together with folk singer Unni Løvlid and fiddler Vegar Vårdal, and has in recent years been involved with several projects together with fiddler Gjermund Larsen.
Haltli plays regularly with the trio Poing, along with saxophonist Rolf-Erik Nystrøm and double bass player Håkon Thelin. Together they have commissioned over 60 new works from composers from all over the world, and have released a number of albums.
Frode Haltli teaches accordion at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo.




  1. “Vagabonde Blu” viser en søkende, og finnende, Haltli med evne til å gå djupt inn i de minste små detaljer, utforske dem og sette sitt eget helt unike bumerke på dem. Dette er krevende, utfordrende og vakker musikk som Frode Haltli gir liv til og som nok en gang bekrefter at han er en musikant i ypperste verdensklasse – nesten uansett sjanger.
    – Tor Hammerø

  2. Den meget allsidige trekkspillkunstneren Frode Haltli får det utroligste ut av instrumentet sitt i konserten som nå er utgitt på plate, der han fremfører stykker av Salvatore Sciarrino, Aldo Clementri og Arne Nordheim. Spesielt gjør sistnevntes “Flashing” inntrykk. Det er som om han spiller sammen med rommet, og Haltli omtaler det selv som en slags akustisk live remiks. Det er dirrende vakkert, og bringer lytteren inn og ut av forskjellige bevissthetsnivåer.
    – Dagens Næringsliv, Audun Vinger (N)

  3. Haltli ist ein norwegischer Akkordeonspieler mit ECM-Diskografie (“Looking on Darkness” von 2002 ist recht hörenswert!), der sich hier drei wundervollen Stücken unkategorisierbarer Musik widmet. Zunächst das Titelstück von Salvatore Sciarrino, ein die kontemplativen Nuancen zarter Klangfäden ausdeutendes Geflecht aus schwebenden Tönen, das entfernt an Feldmansche Streichquartette erinnert. Dann das dynamischere, von Arne Nordheim geschriebene und zwischen Pfeifen und Flirren die ganze Virtuosität des Interpreten fordernde “Flashing”, mit dem sich Haltli schon seit Jahren beschäftigt. Und zum Ende die eine beinahe sakrale Stimmung vermittelnde Komposition “Eines kleines…” des Italieners Aldo Clementi, bei der die besondere akustische Qualität des Aufnahmeortes (“a long and lively delay covering the entire register of sounds”) intensiv zum Tragen kommt. Das Ganze wurde nämlich live vor Publikum in der Osloer Tomba Emmanuelle eingespielt, einem Ort, den der Künstler Emanuel Vigeland als sein eigenes Mausoleum konzipierte. Große zarte Klangkunst
    – Westzeit (DE) *****

  4. Frode Haltli is a renowned, classically trained accordionist, well known from his releases on Hubro label. Great musical background and multi-faceted approach to acoustic instrument give him every right to set a different course onto the vast terrain of contemporary music – as accordion is an instrument that can open gates to many genres and styles – Haltli seems an actor who fills up the whole scenario.
    It’s his fourth album which he releases under his own name, presenting works of Scandinavian composer Arne Nordheim and two Sicilian composers – Salvatore Sciarrino and Aldo Clementi.

    Frode largely works with the natural acoustics of the place he records which is clearly heard in the first piece where the resonating reverb of the room is astounding, at the same time the dynamics is on the verge of self-cmbustion but the experience he has drives him to completely balanced control of all the parts. Title composition by Scarrino is simply a miasm of sonorous outburst, aggressive, yet very much organised into the movements balancing the whole.
    The second track which is Nordheim’s flashing is a different story – the narrative seems to be more homogenous and linear, the acoustics being drawn to the fact that the single sound can be modulated in so many ways and pose a question to what is next, acting as a counterpoint of a unnerving drone phase.
    The last “Eines kleines…” by Clementi has a very tonal quality about it and also very linear, not spoilt by anything of a more extravagant dealing with the technicalities – simplicity in a pure form.
    Excellent album by an excellent musician.
    Felthat (PL)

  5. I remember an interview to Salvatore Sciarrino when the Sicilian composer described the first stage of his own compositional process and the invention of sonic worlds as the extraction from the bottom of Hades, the mythological reign of the underworld, of something which composer or musician wants to bring to light in spite of the fact it could be unknown or unfamiliar. I have not quoted this description of compositional process in order to introduce this release by Norwegian accordeonist Frode Haltli for the mere fact he named his first properly solo album after Sciarrino’s notorious composition “Vagabonde Blu”, but mainly for the choice of the scores he performed and the location where Frode recorded them. First of all, the three compositions he interpreted have some connections to that idea of life-in-death and death-in-life and its inner unpredictability and such a feature resurfaces from performative and compositional aspects: the alternation of grueling overstretched tones and sudden tonal tangles in “Flashing”, Haltli’s homage to Arne Nordheim, whose music according to Haltli’s own words “is hurled out into space, into the universe, into eternity”, mirror this duality, but also the breath-like sequence of sometimes agonizing tiny emissions of air and convulsive noises and the trembling motion that got vividly rendered by variations of intensity and speed in “Vagabonde Blu” as well as the lullaby-like “Ein kleines…”, a composition by Aldo Clementi whose repetitive modal theme fades over slow reductions of dynamics and tempo, focuses on this duality. The link to Hades or to the interzone between life and death (or I’d rather say between discernible and undiscernible) is less dependent on the sensibility or the ability to focus of the listener for what concerns the place where this album was recorded: Tomba Emmanuelle, the mausoleum that artist Emanuel Vigeland built with the intent of making a museum for his sculptures and paintings, is a place whose acoustic features attracted many notorious musicians (Diamanda Galas, Huntsville, Susanne Sundfor, Stian Westerhus) who used the place where Vigeland’s urn got hosted as a recording hall. Frode describes this place in album’s cover notes by these words: “When your eyes get used tot he darkness you can see the fantastic and grotesque fresco of life that covers the walls and ceiuling in the vast, cold room. The massive acoustics produce a long and lively delay covering the entire register fo sounds, and as a result it is nearly impossible to carry out a normal conversation. Silence usually prevails, because you instinctively whisper if you want to say something here…here the room is such an active partner that it changes my music and my playing radically. I listen and wait, and I play offensively at the room so that it can be difficult to determine whether a sound is coming from the instrument, the echo, a combination of the two, or simply a member of the audience who accidentally touches his jacket.”. There is no need to highline how this evocative place managed to turn the above-described compositions into almost otherworldly listening experiences…
    – Chain DLK

  6. Tiens, un disque d’accordéon dans le Love On The Bits, le premier sur les plus de 200 albums chroniqués depuis les débuts de cette rubrique. OEuvre du musicien norvégien FRODE HALTLI, ‘Vagabonde Blu’ (Hubro) est le premier de ses quatre albums à être complètement solo. En trois titres, composés à parité égale par les Italiens Salvatore Sciarrino et Aldo Clementi, ainsi que par le Norvégien Arne Nordheim, le très surprenant accordéoniste scandinave prouve de maîtresse façon que son instrument a toute sa place dans un registre contemporain, il est bien sûr à des lieues des clichés pour bals du 14 juillet et autres vieilleries pour festivals solidaires. Notamment la seconde composition ‘Flashing’ (A. Nordheim) est très impressionnante de force dramaturgique et de virtuosité contenue. Par instants carrément flippantes, sans pour autant tomber dans un mauvais trip psychédélique, le morceau exprime en 14 minutes une conviction poétique admirable, où les instants de sérénité larvée contrebalancent la violence sous-jacente du propos. Rassurez-vous, les deux autres titres valent également le détour, notamment l’admirable ‘Ein Kleines…’ (A. Clementi), tout en langueur indocile et volupté post-moderne.
    – Rifraf, Fabrice Vanoverberg (FR)

  7. Frode Haltlis fjärde skiva, ”Vagabonde Blu”, är ännu en inspelad i Emanuel Vigeland konstnärsrum byggt 1926 och med särpräglad akustik som lyfter verken av Clementi, Nordheim och Sciarrino vid denna konsertupptagning, blir en medspelare till Haltlis dragspel.
    – Universumnoll (SE)

  8. On avait croisé la route de Frode Haltli début 2007, lorsqu’il s’était produit au festival Banlieues Bleues, en configuration trio, aux côtés de Garth Knox (alto) et Arve Henriksen (trompette). À l’époque, le Norvégien publiait des disques sur ECM et s’entourait, outre les deux musiciens cités, de plusieurs autres talents de son pays (Maja Ratkje, Trygve Seim…). Quelques années plus tard, c’est sur Hubro, label probablement plus expérimental et uniquement dédié à la scène jazz et improvisée norvégienne, qu’on le retrouve pour un album live, témoignage d’un concert donné à Oslo en septembre 2009, au cours duquel Haltli opéra seul, sur des œuvres de compositeurs de musique contemporaine.

    Trois pistes seulement, mais une durée oscillant entre neuf et dix-huit minutes, propre à ce style musical, qui favorise la plongée dans un travail très précis sur les souffles et variations. De fait, opérant en solo, Haltli charge son accordéon de produire un ensemble de sons extrêmement variés, si bien que ce ne sera qu’à la fin du deuxième morceau qu’on pourra percevoir des sonorités proches de ce qu’on peut attendre d’un tel instrument. Dans l’intervalle, il s’agira de tapoter quelques touches, de générer des accords parfois dissonants ou bien de convoquer des notes plus aigües pour traduire scéniquement les créations des Italiens Salvatore Sciarrino, Aldo Clementi et de son compatriote Arne Nordheim.

    Plus encore, le Norvégien joua pleinement sur la configuration du lieu qui l’accueillit lors de ce concert : salle voûtée et sombre, entièrement recouverte de fresques, Tomba Emmanuelle a été pensée comme chambre funéraire par le sculpteur et peintre Emanuel Vigeland. Les 800 m² de la pièce lui confèrent une acoustique assez exceptionnelle, dont l’écho se fait entendre sur le disque tandis que l’atmosphère, à la fois lourde, dramatique mais aussi sulfureuse (quelques scènes érotiques parcourent la fresque) influença assurément la prestation musicale. Néanmoins, comme il s’agit quand même d’un mausolée, l’interprétation de Ein Kleines… de Clementi se fait quasiment priant, l’accordéon se faisant presque passer pour un orgue d’église, touchant et invitant au recueillement.
    – Ether Real (FR)

  9. J’ai continué avec Frode Haltli, accordéoniste norvégien, qui a sorti en septembre dernier « Vagabonde Blu » sur le label Hubro, également issu de ce pays scandinave. L’utilisation de cet instrument dans la recherche musicale et sonore n’est pas ce qu’il y a de plus courant et c’est tout d’abord cela qui le rend intéressant dans ce contexte. Egalement, son caractère sonore qui parfois frôle les sons synthétiques mais aussi l’orgue d’église. On pense évidemment à Pauline Oliveros ou plus proche de nous à Jesu Aured, passé il y a peu à Bordeaux. Ici Frode Haltli interprète trois compositions, chacune d’un compositeur différent. Chacune ayant donc sa particularité, mais sur cet enregistrement un élement les lie ensemble particulièrement. L’espace. Cette caractéristique du son que l’on prend trop souvent pour acquise et que l’on oublie parfois donc. L’accordéonniste norvégien ne l’oublie pas ici et en use pour ajouter cet élément à son interprétation. Cet espace est d’ailleurs assez particulier puisque c’est dans le mausolée de l’artiste Emanuel Vigeland qu’il a joué. Censé être un musée à son honneur il en fit son tombeau fait de ses peintures et sculptures. Par son atmosphère il est sûr que ce lieu a aussi laissé son empreinte.
    – Déphasage / Radio Campus Bordeaux 88.1 (FR)

  10. What is your favorite solo accordion album? While you’re searching your brain for an answer, I’ll try to make the case for the hauntingly sparse Vagabonde Blu by Frode Haltli. With three tracks stretched over 42 minutes, Haltli takes a road seldom traveled by performing works by Salvatore Sciarrino, Arne Nordheim and Aldo Clementi inside Emanuel Vigeland’s mausoleum. The acoustic effects achieved within the room under these circumstances are the types of things that a solid-state technician would just love to replicate. If Haltli were to inject the sound with the same little fits and starts in a conventional studio, it would just sound odd. Within this performance space however, it’s ghostly. When he smacks his hand against the keys to achieve an atonal cluster chord, it’s not unlike a startling thunderclap. Vagabonde Blu spooks, but not without a newfound sense of wonder.
    – Popmatters, John Garrat (USA)

  11. Vagabonde Blu by Frode Haltli returns us again, in some ways, to introverted Norwegian calm. This is essentially a live solo accordion performance. The album is listed as ‘Classical’, but I would file it under folk for sure. I have a problem with reviewing live albums sometimes, preferring to write a live review as a participant, or not at all. It depends on what the object brings to the table, but this document is amazing. It was recorded in the Emanuel Vigeland Museum’s Tomba Emmanuelle, a weird, painted, crypt-like vault. Seeing is believing, Google it. Emanuel’s brother, Gustav Vigeland was responsible for the incredible sculptures in Oslo, invoking life and death, through often erotic figures. Vigeland built what became known as Tomba Emmanuelle as a studio in his garden, as a future museum for his work, but he later bricked it up as his own mausoleum. Vigeland’s urn is above the entrance to the door. The ambience of the hall is vast, and part of the uniqueness of the document. Here, Haltli plays works by Salvatore Sciarrino, Arne Nordheim and Aldo Clementi. The Sciarrino piece is all tiny noises, but here they are blasted into the cosmos of the dark space. Pauline Oliveros modernist stabs of accordion give way to Deep Listening drone tones, which seance the space back at the non-attender, like a kind of tonal remote viewer. Dropped objects and scuffles inflate into a huge, dark meniscus, before imploding. The intersection of the space, the event, the immediate moment and the past, like a photograph, all begin to fold together in strange, occulted ways. The closing twenty minutes of ‘Ein Kleines’ finishes the performance almost sentimentally, after the insane carny-gone-mad of ‘Flashing’, Arne Nordheim’s piece, our contemporary Babylon over-writing earlier social structures. This record seems to offer dark warnings, Oslo is the city of Anders Breivik’s attacks after all, and the Vigeland work speaks again after this, not least because Gustav Vigeland was a Nazi sympathiser. But the album also says ‘hope’, and this whole slew of Hubro releases give us that in large doses.
    – The Sound Projector, Steve Hanson (UK)

  12. A solo accordion album recorded over someone’s dead body.
    – (Capsule Reviews)

  13. Vagabonde Blu is accordionist Frode Haltli’s fourth recording under his own name, but his first true solo album: He is the only performer listed on the credits. Recorded live in 2009 during a concert at Oslo’s Tomba Emmanuelle, it features three lengthy pieces by contemporary composers. The title track was authored by Salvatore Sciarrino, “Flashing” is by Arne Nordheim, and “Ein Kleines…” by Aldo Clementi. This date marks the first time Haltli has recorded Nordheim’s piece; he reprised it with the Norwegian Radio Orchestra under the direction of Christian Eggen in 2012 on Arne Nordheim: Complete Accordion Works. This version, while much lower in fidelity, is actually preferable because it is longer by nearly half, and one can hear Haltli discovering its possibilities as he performs it without a net. That said, one has to wonder if the venue here should be credited as a collaborator. It was built in 1926 by artist Emanuel Vigeland as a place to showcase his paintings. He later bricked up its many windows and it became his mausoleum — an urn containing his ashes sits above the entrance. Given its hard surfaces, an insistent yet natural reverb becomes another sonic element in Haltli’s interpretations: he plays, listens back, and reacts. (That all three works allow for real improvisational liberties is a boon.) The title piece here is most indicative of this, its spaciousness and economic phraseology layer rather than stack cadences and what amounts to a kind of dialogic call and response between Haltli and Tomba Emmanuelle occurs. Over 42 minutes, the accordionist not only displays inspired, disciplined, and expert musicianship, but also a sense of awe as a listener who co-creates with the room’s own “voices” in realizing these performances.
    –, Thom Jurek (USA)

  14. Uppbyggnaden av skivan ”Vagabonde Blu” är oklanderlig, och i det inkluderas naturligtvis Haltlis interpretationer. Jag har redan berört inspelningslokalen men vill verkligen understryka att det är med största fingertoppskänsla som man har förlagt inspelningen till Emanuel Vigelands mausoleum i Oslo. Mausoleet tar aktiv plats i musiken och är väl beprövat i inspelningssammanhang. (En annan Hubro-skiva, Huntsvilles “Past Increasing, Future Receding”, spelades in där och blev med hjälp qv Vigelands gravmonument en av de fem senaste årens bästa skivor.) Jag har svårt att hitta några svagheter med ”Vagabonde Blu”. Allt samverkar optimalt på skivan – verkval, utförande, ljud – och det placerar den med bestämdhet bland årets absolut bästa skivor.
    – Tidningen Kulturen, Peter Sjöblom (SE)

  15. Frode Haltli es un reconocido acordeonista noruego de formación clásica que comienza desde muy joven a tocar música folk. Estudia en la Academia Noruega de Música y luego en la Real Academia Danesa de Música. En su repertorio se incluye una gran variedad de trabajos en música clásica y se ha presentado con orquestas de cuerdas, Sinfoniettas y orquestas sinfónicas alrededor del mundo.
    Haltli en su carácter multifacético trabaja en la música de vanguardia, jazz y el folk. ‘Vagabonde Blu’ es su cuarto álbum con su propio nombre en el presenta trabajos de Salvatore Sciarrino, Arne Nordheim y Aldo Clementi. El álbum abre con ‘Vagabonde Blu’, una pieza del italiano Salvatores Sciarrino (1947-) de 1998 y en donde el acordeón de Haltli está en un primer plano y muestra una reverberancia además de unos ruidos que flotan en la gran sala.
    Continúa ‘Flashing’ de Arne Nordheim (1931-2010) en las que Haltli toca notas disonantes y deja espacio para el silencio. Finaliza este disco con ‘Ein Kleines…’ del italiano Aldo Clementi (1925-2011) y el acordión de Haltli despliegue bellas notas de una pieza enmarcada en la música clásica.

  16. Three incredible compositions from this Norwegian accordion player whose work is usually found on ECM. Recorded live in 2009, it is only too evident that the space of the concert hall forms an integral part of the overall sound. Haltli maximises the acoustics whilst playing a commanding yet expressive music steadily moving from something overtly sombre to being occasionally dramatic and tumultous. The very fact that everything is otherwise generated from an accordion lends considerable weight to the proceedings as well. Only Pauline Oliveros springs to mind as a contemporary in this respect, although Haltli’s work moves in a different direction. At once beautiful, stirring and seemingly possessed, the natural charm and sensitivity clearly at work in Vagabonde Blu is never once less than awe-inspiring. I’m sure that hearing this in its original setting would have made for an even more wonderful experience, of course, but for those of us not afforded that privilege, this recording will have to suffice.
    – Adverse Effect Magazine (PL)