Guy Klucevsek, composer-accordionist, returns to Milwaukee
Theatre Gigante presents Klucevsek in concert at Paddy's Pub Thursday and Friday.
“Kielbasa, beer and sauerkraut!”
That shout rang out in January of 2007, at one of the most fun Present Music concerts ever, as accordionist Guy Klucevsek played and sang Bob Lucas’ one-man polka opera. Klucevsek returns to Milwaukee tonight and Friday (June 20-21), for evenings of his own music at Paddy’s Pub, under auspices of Theatre Gigante.
Theatre Gigante, the diverse ongoing project of Isabelle Kralj and Mark Anderson, began life as Kralj’s Milwaukee Dance Theatre. Klucevsek composed and/or performed music for more than one MDT production and has also been a part of Gigante theatricals.
Much of Klucevsek’s music has a dash of East European paprika in its scales and dance rhythms, but the sophistication of the friendlier wing of the post-modern avant garde is there, too. His music pointed the way to the many hybrid quasi-folk ensembles that Yale and Juilliard music grads play in at night at bars around New York. Klucevsek’s music entertains, engages, shows off his virtuosity as a player even as it addresses musical ideas of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
“The program I’m playing in Milwaukee basically surveys my last 30 years of writing,” he said.
The Milwaukee program, which Klucevsek has played around the U.S. and Europe for the last 18 months, includes tribute pieces not only to accordionists/composers Lars Holm and Ivan Milev but also to avant-garde tango composer Astor Piazzolla and modernist legend György Sándor Ligeti.
“I love the density that Ligeti gave to even the smallest gestures,” Klucevsek said. “My Walk with Ligeti is really quite Minimalist — just V-I chord changes in a solid state. But something else is always happening beneath the simple melodies and harmonies — tremolos, counter-rhythms — to add that density.”
Klucevsek has long divided his time between composing and performing, sometimes with bands he’s formed. He’s written film, dance and theatrical scores for various combinations of instruments. He noted the 1990s gap in his solo program — he was too busy with theater and dance projects in that decade to write much solo accordion music. (His next non-accordion commission, as it happens, is a project for a mixed brass and winds for the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.)
“The program is lopsided with music from the 20 years around the 90s,” he said. “I still do theater and dance scores when they come along, about one a year. But the financial reality is that it’s hard to tour with a band and hard for dance companies to commission music.
“But I love the solo format. I play everything from memory. It’s liberating to have the music in my fingers, in my head, in my heart.”
Klucevsek (b. 1947) has never been on the accordion club circuit or spent much time with the traditional accordion repertoire. He has associated himself more with the Bang on a Can Festival, Present Music and the like. He’s made his own way in the musical world, and no one else is quite like him.
“I’m a composer-performer,” he said. “I generally play in alternative arts spaces, but in concert halls, too, and at music festivals. I’ve been to Europe twice this year and I’m going back for 10 days in August. I prefer not to have printed programs — I introduce each piece and give it a little context, the way singer-songwriters do. I do things the same way, whether I’m playing in an art gallery, a concert hall, or a bar.”
Concert Info: 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, June 20-21, Paddy’s Pub, 2339 N. Murray Ave. $25. Reserve Tickets: 414-961-6119. Visit Theatre Gigante’s website for more.