Chopin’s Mazurkas meets the Balkan / Gypsy orchestra instrumentation in a surrealistic but respectful way.
Nils Henrik Asheim plays the piano part and worked out the composition in collaboration with Gjertruds Sigøynerorkester (Gjertrud's Gypsy Orchestra).
The live project was premiered at Bergen International Festival, May 30th 2009.
Release tour 27sep - 01oct 2010 went to Norway, Sweden/, Denmark and Germany.
Recording made on the wonderful, restored 1820 Collard & Collard square piano at Ulefoss Hovedgård.
The Mazurkas occupy a special position in Frédéric Chopin’s work. They have the distinct rhythm and the edgy tunes of folk music, clothed in raw, beautiful and radical harmony. This inspired composer and pianist Nils Henrik Asheim to read Chopin’s music through the sound of a Gypsy orchestra - taking the classical music back towards the dance floor, so to speak. And: towards the outer boundaries of contemporary sound improvisation.
This may seem like a daring approach. But actually, there is already a clash of cultures in the Mazurkas. Often, a folk-like main part is followed by a more salon-like, classical interlude. Chopin sometimes dissolves his own tune by transposing it chromatically or leaving the end of phrases somehow unfinished, creating a magic and mystical atmosphere - rather the opposite of what you would expect from dance music.
In Asheim and the Gjertrud Gypsy Orchestra’s re-interpretation, the original piano versions drift in and out of the music, into full-blood Gypsy or Balkan-sounding parts, exploring the expressive potential of Chopin’s beatiful tunes. On the other end of the scale, the music dives into intriguing, experimental contemporary sound effects sometimes sounding like a film score.
The project was elaborated through a commission grant from the Norwegian Cultural Council, and a collaboration spanning more than one year between the Gypsy Orchestra and Asheim. Mazurka had its premiere for a sold-out house at the prestigious Bergen International Festival in May 2009.
In September 2010, the “Mazurka - remaking Chopin” CD was released on Lawo Classics. It was recorded in the 19th century mansion of Ulefoss in East Norway, on a historic Collard & Collard piano from Chopin’s own time. The Norwegian press has been unison in its praise, Norwegian Broadcasting rated it among the top 10 classical recordings of the year and finally the CD was nominated for Spellemannsprisen (Norwegian Grammy).