Dancing Suite to Suite
( Notes by Karen)
Dancing Suite to Suite is the fruition of the search for roots musical and genealogical. I first set foot on my ancestral land of Norway in July 1998. Landing in Oslo, I was greeted by my cousin Jens Moe who whisked me straight away to Telemark to meet the hardangerfele player Tarjei Romtveit at his bucolic home in Vijne where we fiddled for most of the afternoon. Lodgings were in a hytte with a sod roof by a rolling stream in Mjonoy where we resumed the fiddlefest the following day.
I had been yearning for a hardangerfele lesson since my childhood, intrigued by the intricately inlaid Norwegian violin with five sympathetically vibrating strings underneath the bridge. Tarjei taught me his favorite tunes, which I preserved on DAT tape for future practice sessions. Jens and I searched for Noekken and other trolls during our midnight hikes in the rustic forest. After several days in Oslo, I made the pilgrimage to the family island near Kragero where I met more cousins, and slept in the same bed as my great uncle Tillman Breiseth had years ago while on vacation from teaching Ibsen at the University of Oslo. I gathered enough Nordic inspiration for the trek to Denmark where I was engaged to play several solo violin recitals at Klint, a community which gathers each summer to study the writings of the Danish cosmologist Martinus. I played the concerts at Klint for an enthusiastic audience.
After the second concert, Ole Saxe invited me to jam with him on drums and piano on any evening after dinner, but I was far too interested in hiking along the coast of Nykoebing Sjaelland at midnight. So our musicmaking did not begin until I received the gift of the score Salsa for Karen in September 1998. The notes leapt off the page, demanding violinistic interpretation. I learned the gem in a week and it quickly became a staple of my repertoire as an encore, or by adding Nigerian clay pot (udu) played by Ian Dogole during our duo recitals. I was elated to have such a dynamic piece in my arsenal.
Following the suggestions of my dear cinephile friend Anthony Guneratne, I requested an entire suite from Ole Saxe based on the model established by Johann Sebastian Bach: multinational dances related by key comprising an organic whole. Within several weeks Jig for Alan appeared as a gif file on my computer. Then followed the Ziga Dance, Rhumba de la Luna, Redhaired Tango, and finally the Flamenco Alojera, all composed by the end of March 2000. These dances reflect Ole’s background in folk themes and rhythms and are vivacious and intoxicating to practice and perform. We finally premiered the Dance Suite in its entirety in Palo Alto, California on December 8, 2000 at 8:45 pm, preceded by a performance of Bach’s D minor Partita. Ole was present for the premiere and the subsequent performance at Anna and Frank Pope’s ballroom in San Francisco. We were further encouraged by the philanthropy of Kathryn Gould via a grant from the Community Foundation of Silicon Valley as well as Maestro Eric Kujawsky requesting Ole to orchestrate the Dance Suite for a performance with the Redwood Symphony in April 2002.
On October 23 and 24, 2001 we recorded Dancing Suite to Suite at Skywalker Ranch. We added Odd Bakkerud’s epic hardangerfele tune Fanitullen as a spice to this recording which celebrates the joy released by the chance encounters that led to this Swedish American collaboration. It is purported in Scandinavian mythology that a fiddler must spend time in the water to achieve excellence and inspiration. The cover photo represents a fiddler seated on a rock in a stream at the base of Mount Shasta, absorbing fluidity and virtuosity from Noekken the water spirit.
Dance Suite for Solo Violin, Viola & Orchestra
( Notes by Ole )
Ziga dance is dedicated to my Bosnian friends Enes Ziga (folk musician) and his wife, Elsa Ziga (folk dancer). Enes has a beautiful voice and can sing mellow ballads from the Balkans all night. These folk songs are influenced by Arabic scales, and the 7-beat rhythm is common in this music. We have made several concerts together (one at the Siljan festival) where the audience would dance in a circle, the Swedes trying to get their hambo, and polska feet to catch up with the elegant Bosnian dancers. Sometimes beautiful belly dancers from Iraq would join the musicians on stage (very difficult for musicians to concentrate on playing though). The light theme is inspired by a Macedonian folksong. This fusion of international music and dance in the Leksand community has meant a lot for the integration of 150 Bosnian refugees in our little Swedish society during the period of war in Yugoslavia.
Jig for Alan is dedicated to my father in law, half British, quarter Scottish and quarter Irish, with a deep interest in music. The Jig is inspired by a magical evening in Danish Skagen. Landing with our little sailing boat on a nice summer evening after sailing all day from Gothenburg, Sweden, we went to a music bar, Visekrogen, to see if some Danish folksingers were on stage. To our surprise it was an Irish evening, with an Irish singer and his band of banjo, violin and pennywhistles. Being the first long trip for Alan in a time of deep personal crisis due to serious illness in near family, this was like paradise. The jigs and reels moved faster and higher and the Danish beer moved down in the warm, family-like atmosphere. This was the climax of a wonderful sailing holiday between Sweden and Denmark that even musically took us way out west to the greens of Ireland.
Rhumba de la Luna was actually composed during a night of full moon. Still not sure of the origin of the inspiration, I imagine the mellow tone depicts loneliness in the night. But there is hope and love in the air as well. The secret of the moon resides deep in our subconscious, with our roots and shadows of the past. Maybe these roots go way back in time to our common African roots: the origin of man. So the Afro-Cuban rhythmic glow gives a sharp edge to the lunar softness.
Red-haired Tango emanates from a childhood memory of a school dance in the huge school auditorium. I was eight years old, deeply in love with the red-haired girl in the class. Gathering courage, it took several hours before I dared go across the endless floor to ask her for a dance. She said "Yes". And guess what the band played? TANGO! My dance lessons had not reached beyond valse and jitterbug, so I struggled through the dance, to the sacrifice of my partner’s feet. Many unhappy but passionate romantic feelings from my childhood are well symbolized by the temperament of the tango music.
Flamenco Alojera emanates from a strange recognition of the Spanish temperament and culture within me. Maybe the contrasts in the dramatic mountain view over the little village Alojera, on the Canarian island Gomera, is similar to the ups and downs of this music. The music was formed after a holiday in the Gomeran mountains. Another association is from a period of my life where I lived in a flat in Stockholm, with an American blues singer Eric Bibb and his Spanish wife Magalida in the flat below, and a Spanish flamenco singer Rogelio in the flat above. The music was all encompassing with the rhythm of the flamenco clapped and tapped through the floor to the heartbreaking improvisations of Rogelio’s voice on top and Erica’s below, shaping my dreams at night and growing seeds of hot passion and mellow blues into my cool Scandinavian blood. Often when I play some lyric Scandinavian folk music, I suddenly find the music changing into burning Spanish rhythms and scales. Where did this Spanish blood come from?
Salsa for Karen, dedicated to my special violin muse, is the origin of the whole suite. From a concert in Klint in Denmark, where Karen played part of the Sibelius Violin Concerto, as well as the Flight of the Bumblebee by Rimsky-Korsakov, came the idea to write a salsa, especially for Karen. I understood that it would be possible to catch both rhythm and spirit in the salsa music through her capacity, and felt a certain excitement building up inside. We never talked about this at the time, but later I suggested the idea by email, and received the reply "Go for it!" From this point musical scores went to and fro between Sweden and Palo Alto, California, and the suite came to life. The Afro-Cuban music is very much my musical identity. In our world music band Mondo Muziko we often play both salsa and Afro music for multicultural dancing. This is music for joy and togetherness that crosses borders and limitations, and offers a generous and warm experience of love. Salsa music moves your feet and hips and it was not until my midlife crisis made me buy a drum set that I fully found this joy as a musician.
Originally composed for clarinet and orchestra, Daladans was premiered in Birmingham, Alabama in the viola version by Karen with the Red Mountain Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Yaniv Attar in November 2009 as part of Violapalooza. Lithuanian pianist Justas Šervenikas joined Karen in a virtuosic piano reduction of the orchestral score recorded at the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania in Vilnius and released on our 2015 recording Peace Piece. The folk music of Dalarna, Sweden springs forth in polska rhythm and intensifies with an arrangement of the traditional tune "Hjortingen" by famous fiddler Hjort Anders, born in 1865, followed by oriental rhythms heralding new times of integration and multicultural collaboration.
My Manchu Princess
( Notes by Ole)
Stunned by her beauty and lovely personality, I met my Manchu Princess in Sweden in spring 2013. Coming from an ancient Manchu family with a rich cultural and philosophical background, she shared her insights fluently as an artist and doctor of both Western medicine and Traditional Chinese medicine. Our common values and interests provided the foundation for a profound relationship to evolve.
The musical style that permeates My Manchu Princess mirrors this East-West love story as well as the rich heritage of the culture and wisdom of China. The title is a sincere appreciation of the vast cultural gifts and experiences I received during my trips to Shenyang, the hometown of my Princess.
The initial inspiration for the music was a little love song, written on an airplane en route to our first vacation on the Canary Islands. That melody now forms the theme at the end of the second movement. The musical idea is an East-West communion, where the pentatonic scale is blended with western counterpoint and harmonies, and the violin part is especially designed for the wonderful skills and expression of Karen, who contributed with technical advice and feedback as the work evolved from our first sight reading session at my home studio in Siljansnas while she was performing and filming my Human Rights Suite in April 2015.
The music spans from tender love to dramatic power, from all contrasting impressions of Shen Yang, where I was greeted by three emperors of the Qing Dynasty in the traditional theatre shows at the beautiful epic cultural sites; the cradle of Manchuria and the first capital of the Dynasty.
On my second visit, I was invited by the cultural officials of the city to collaborate on concerts together with stellar local musician friends. I had the honor to play on the piano donated by Lang Lang, the famous son of the city, and was requested to compose a piece for Shen Yang, a tradition offered to visiting composers introduced by him. Unfortunately three of the four concerts were cancelled as the pandemic shuttered all events, and we hurried back to Sweden. The Shen Yang piece is still in limbo, waiting for the pandemic to subside and facilitate a premiere by the local riverside music festival.
Karen Bentley Pollick
Karen Bentley Pollick is one of America’s leading contemporary musicians, performing a wide range of solo repertoire and styles on violin, viola, piano and Norwegian Hardanger fiddle (hardingfele) to extend the boundaries of the concert experience, from the Baroque to cutting-edge contemporary music and live improvisations. A native of Palo Alto, California she studied with Camilla Wicks in San Francisco then attended Indiana University to study with Josef Gingold. Karen holds BM and MM degrees from IU, with a cognate field in Choral Conducting.
She currently serves as concertmaster of Valse Café Orchestra in Seattle, and Principal Second Violin and Festival Artist with the Colorado MahlerFest Orchestra in Boulder. She plays on a violin made by Jean Baptiste Vuillaume in 1860 and a viola made in 1987 by William Whedbee.
Karen was awarded a grant from the Alabama State Council for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts for ‘Solo Violin and Alternating Currents’ and subsequently launched ‘Violin, Viola & Video Virtuosity’ that now comprises dozens of videos projected onto the violinist. Karen received a Seed Money Grant for Disseminated Performances from New York Women Composers.
While she was residing in Vilnius, Lithuania she premiered ‘Resonances from Vilna’ with the pianist Jascha Nemtsov in May 2014 and, in December 2015 that of ‘Nothing is Forever’ with actor Aiste Ptakauske; and in August 2016 she premiered David A. Jaffe’s violin concerto How Did It Get So Late So Soon? with the Lithuanian National Opera & Ballet Theatre Orchestra conducted by Maestro Robertas Šervenikas.
Karen’s debut recording for Toccata Classics presents Hermann Graedener’s two violin concertos with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, recorded with Maestro Gottfried Rabl in Kiev in June 2018, and winner of a Silver Medal in the 2019 Global Music Awards for Outstanding Achievement in the album and instrumental solo performance categories. Her second recording for Toccata Classics featuring Chamber Music of Russian pianist/composer Ivan Sokolov was recorded in Wuppertal in September 2019 and garnered a Gold Medal in the 2020 Global Music Awards. Karen continues her collaboration with Swedish composer Ole Saxe after receiving Best Instrumental Album in the Just Plain Folks 2020 Music Awards for their third recording Peace Piece.
Karen has performed at San Pancho, Chacala, and Sinergiarte Music Festivals in the state of Nayarit. A founding member of Virtuosos de Cámara in Puerto Vallarta, she has collaborated with Peruvian guitarist Alfredo Muro in Duo KarMu and with Mexican musicians and circus artists in San Pancho during her years residing in Mexico.
Her contribution to EXTRACTION:Art on the Edge of the Abyss was the world premiere of Pietà for amplified violin, electronics and orchestra by Montana native composer Jerry Mader, and the US premiere of ROMANTARCTICA for solo flute, viola and orchestra by Norwegian composer/violinist Henning Kraggerud in concerts with The Sound Ensemble in Seattle in October 2021, conducted by Bobby Collins.
For more information: www.kbentley.com
Ole Saxe was born in April 1952 in Copenhagen, and has lived in Sweden since 1973, now at Lake Siljan. As a chiropractor and psychodramatist he is head of the School of Holistic Therapy, giving classes in alternative medicine, relaxation therapy and drama. Apart from piano, he plays the guitar and loves to sing and play drums in a jazz trio and a world music band for which he writes songs in various genres from pop to salsa.
Ole has composed music to classic poetry of Nobel Prize winners Harry Martinsson and Pär Lagerkvist and has recently released a CD featuring his settings of original poems by the Swedish poet Karin Boye, sung by Rosali Henriksson.
Ole has composed for the American violinist Karen Bentley Pollick and released 2 CD albums Dancing Suite to Suite and Peace Piece with solo pieces and chamber music ranging from salsa to classical symphonic music, both receiving Best Instrumental Album from Just Plain Folks Music Awards. The dance suite was premiered in a solo violin and symphony orchestra version by Karen and the Redwood Symphony Orchestra in San Francisco in 2002, where Ole received a Fellowship Award from the Community Foundation and Silicon Valley as an early recipient of the late philanthropist Kathryn Gould.
As a musician, Ole mostly plays salsa and world music on the album Unity in Contrast with Ole Saxe and Friends. Previous works from the 80's are his CD Oceanos merging music from the ocean and natural sounds from dolphins and whales, as well as the musical Livets Spel and pop and jazz songs on the CD Smakprov.
Ole has spent a lot of time
and research in stress management and how music can be used as a healing force.
As a composer he has recorded two albums of relaxation music inspired by the
seven seas and Scandinavian nature such as A Nice Day with clarinetist Kjell
Fageus ,and Flying Carpet with guitarist Ange Turell, which encourages deep serenity. Among his four
musicals is the fairytale Travel Companion by Danish author
Hans Christian Andersen. Other compositions include settings of Swedish poems
by Gustav Fröding, a String Quartet inspired by Cuban salsa rhythms premiered in Seattle by Odeon String
Quartet, and in 2000 this Dance Suite of contemporary
dances for solo violin. Ole is a great lover of all waters. Whenever he
gets a chance he is either swimming, paddling his kayak, sailing, or teaching
his boys to do so
Neptunus Cyber Symphony
Our current collaboration was conceived during the global pandemic with the goal of maintaining our long distance cooperation despite having limited access to a live orchestra. Karen's solo violin was recorded at Evergroove Studio in Evergreen, Colorado in August 2021 with audio engineer Brad Smalling, and combined with a virtual orchestra created from the Vienna Symphonic Library at the Neptunus Records studio in Siljansnas, Sweden. We present these compositions in the spirit of keeping dynamic new music created in our home studios flowing forth to catalyze future live performances.