‘Toralf Tollefsen World Artist’ is a fascinating and very readable book about the life, career and achievements of Toralf Tollefsen (1914-94), a much loved and internationally renowned accordionist from Norway, a man who truly became a legend in his lifetime. First published (in Norwegian) in 1994 to celebrate Tollefsen’s 80th birthday, this book is not actually a biography as such, but an anthology edited by Jon Faukstad containing a lengthy in-depth biographical interview with the great man by Faukstad, four informative articles about Tollefsen and his very significant contribution to the accordion (written by Mogens Ellegaard, Ola Kai Ledang, Jon Faukstad, and Birger Ostby), plus a complete and detailed discography, compiled by Tom Valle.
Toralf Tollefsen has long been a legendary figure in the accordion world, especially in Britain where he lived between 1936/39 and 1946/61. There have been other accordionists equally skilled, but few could match Tollefsen’s charisma, stage presence or reputation, or the deep impression he made on a generation of accordionists in this country whose progress was often measured by how well they could play compositions and arrangements bearing Tollefsen’s name. This newly published English-language version tells a great deal about Tollefsen’s lifelong dedication to the accordion, and the reader will learn much about his ambitions, thoughts on repertoire, performance, his instruments, playing experiences in Britain and the USA, and his philosophy about life.
The life of Tollefsen is, in a sense, the story of the modern accordion in Britain and Europe as this was the man whose long-held and eventually realised dream it was to pioneer the accordion’s transition from variety theatres to the classical concert stage, introducing the free bass instrument in the process. In the interview section Tollefsen discusses how he went from variety to classical music in the post-war years, and the problems he had to overcome with this transition. Originally published in Norwegian, ‘Toralf Tollefsen World Artist’ has been painstakingly translated and updated by Owen Murray, with assistance from Olga Jorgensen for the translation of the article by Professor Ola Kai Ledang. Special mention should be made of the initiative of Roland Williams, whose enthusiasm brought this project to fruition.