Toralf Tollefsen -World Artist

‘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.

Toralf Tollefsen – World Artist by Jon Faukstad

Toral Tollefsen, World Artist is a new publication we now have in stock featuring one of the first truly global accordionists of the concert platform.  The book tracks the life of this pioneer of the concert accordion through interviews and articles contributed by the editor Jon Faukstad, Mogens Ellegaard, Ola Kai Ledang and others. The project to translate Faukstad’s original book into English was spearheaded by Roland Williams who convinced Owen Murray to translate it. Tollefsen travelled the world playing concerts.  The book retells his story through an in-depth interview by Faukstad and lists his recordings and his compositions.  It all makes fascinating reading and gives an insight into the life of a concert artist back then which will no doubt draw comparisons with today’s modern globe-trotting concert accordionists. This book is wonderful way for today’s younger generation of artists to discover the story of a mid 20th Century classical accordion trailblazer.

From his humble beginnings playing Norwegian folk music, Toralf Tollefsen took the accordion to the dizzy heights of the Royal Albert Hall as far back as the 1940s.  I met him in the 1980s at Caister with my then accordion teacher Frank Lilley who had met him in Oslo during the war.  He was playing free bass accordion then and it was fascinating to see the journey this man had made.  I knew him through my father’s record of him playing some compelling arrangements of Heart of Paris (G.Auric), Pizzicato Waltz (G. Boulanger), Bel Viso (P. Frosini)and Tomerhugger Dans (Tollefsen).  He was a great influence for me as I’m sure he will have been in the formation of other professional accordionists.

Romano Viazzani