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Tonya plays Tarp - a mini interview

Australian-born Tonya Lemoh lives in Copenhagen, but has an impressive international career as a concert pianist. Despite her broad wingspan, for her new solo album Tonya has chosen to bring to light entirely unknown piano music by the Danish composer Svend Erik Tarp (1908-94). The CD will be released on 10th April 2011 on Dacapo Records.


Tonya, you have studied and given recitals in many countries before coming to Denmark. How did you  discoverTarp's piano music?

"In the Department of Musicology at the University of Copenhagen, where I teach piano, I found Tarp's three improvisations lying in a heap one day. I played them through and was enthu¬siastic and surprised about this music - by a composer I'd never heard of before! I thought right away that it would be so cool if I could get to record Tarp's works on CD, since the music is really exciting and obviously more people should be able to enjoy it!

"I contacted the senior researcher Claus Røllum-Larsen at the Royal Danish Library, who helped me to find more music and scores by Svend Erik Tarp. Then I sat in the library and ‘read' the various works through, and imagined what would work best in a concert situation - and on CD. Luckily I found plenty of ‘serious' and stimulating compositions - so then it was just a question of getting started!"

How would you describe Tarp's piano music? What does it recall?

"Svend Erik Tarp was a contemporary of composers like Herman D. Koppel and Vagn Holmboe, but his music is different from theirs, because it's more French-inspired - more flowing and more colourful. Although he'd studied composition in Germany, Austria and Holland, Tarp's music was influenced more by the musical spirit of the French group Les Six - that is, a brilliant, sophisticated neoclassicist style with touches of Impressionism.

"At the beginning of his career Tarp was very set on making his music accessible and relatively simple to listen to, but in reality he couldn't help experimenting. And that's exactly what makes the music exciting! His later works show signs of a great artistic temperament, a fascination with a unique sound-world, and a magnificent ability to structure compositions with both breadth and depth."

What is you favourite work on the CD?

"My favourite work is probably Theme with Variations, which has a fantastic mixture of Tarp's usual charm and lyricism, but which launches itself into some very exciting harmonic areas. It's an extremely well structured work where his musical idiom is highly personal and original. The theme in fact slightly recalls Carl Nielsen's well known song Apple Blossom. I'm also very fond of the suite, which is a youthful work in a very charming way. It may be a little immature in style, slightly awkward - but the music is so full of life and energy!"

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