Sampo Haapamäki: Velinikka (2008)


Sampo Haapamäki (b. 1979) wrote his first solo work Power for accordion in 2001 from the initiative of me and my wife Susanne Kujala, who worked together with the composer and premiered the work. We both enjoyed the piece very much and it has stayed in my repertoire now for over ten years.

After the premiere performance I started to think that Haapamäki would be perfect composer for an accordion concerto. When I mentioned it him for the first time, Haapamäki had already started working with micro intervals, more specifically with quarter tones. He liked the idea of an accordion concerto, but every time we spoke about it, he asked the same question: wouldn't it be possible somehow to play quarter tones on accordion.

 Maestro Haapamäki and myself hanging around in Oslo before the performance of Velinikka in 2014.
Maestro Haapamäki and myself hanging out in Oslo before the performance of Velinikka in 2014.

We played with many different ideas such as redesigning a new instrument, tuning left manual quarter tone lower, a double concerto for two accordions, where one accordion is in 442 Hz and another one quarter tone lower etc. but these ideas did not feel right for us. In 2004 I was performing Haapamäki's music in Finland Festival in the Netherlands organized by new music ensemble Insomnio, and just when we were waiting our flight back to Finland, a very simple solution occurred to my mind: replacement of the reeds by means of redesigning reed blocks and narrowing the tone range of the accordion! From this idea started rather quickly a process, which lead to the birth of quarter-tone accordion in 2007. Insomnio was logical partner since the idea was born on their festival and the premiere performance of Velinikka took place 2008 in the opening concert of Gaudeamus Music Week in Amsterdam.

Velinikka is uttermost demanding and very physical concerto, where quarter-tone accordion and orchestra form together kind of "super instrument". The orchestral parts are as well very challenging, but I have been lucky enough to co-operate with very open minded ensembles and orchestras and performed the work already multiple times. Here is a video from my latest performance with excellent Norwegian Ensemble Ernst conducted by Thomas Rimul: 


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