My Favourite Piece is the Goldberg Variations
My Favourite Piece is the Goldberg Variations is based on interviews with Susanne Borregaard (mother of accordionist Andreas Borregaard) conducted during the summer lockdown of 2020.
Andreas approached me about writing a piece involving extended performativity beyond simply playing the accordion. I was drawn to the idea of the accordionist as storyteller, almost in the troubadour sense. We met with writer Ted Huffman in Berlin to speak about Andreas’ own life and work, which in turn led to interviews with his mother over Skype.
My work with Ted often uses verbatim text and this piece continues our exploration of queer histories. From this interview material, we formed twelve snapshots of a life over seven decades.
The piece is dedicated to Susanne Borregaard with great appreciation for her contribution.
“In Philip Venables and Ted Huffman’s My Favourite Piece is the Goldberg Variations, Borregaard tells his mother’s life story, while faded home videos flicker in the background and his dramatic accordion playing at the same time counteracts and supports the narrative. It is the accordion that makes a banality like “I felt better with him around / he was always holding my hand” sound like a hard-earned life experience, and which highlights the crushing melancholy in the children’s song “The mountain in the forest”. With few, well-chosen means, Borregaard conveys in the most beautiful way a tale of love and loss, of duality and loneliness. It is an exquisite sensitization of everyday life.” — Seismograf.org (machine translated from Danish)
“My Favourite Piece is the Goldberg Variations, an intimate and moving work in which accordionist Andreas Borregaard accompanies the story of his mother, which he declaims, full of emotion: in 12 stations that are so many snapshots of existence, he takes us into the life of this woman within a touching, humanist and queer parable, which seems to focus the composer’s intention to explore certain pathologies from which our societies suffer.” — DNA Magazine, France (machine translated from French)
“Created on a text by Ted Huffman around the story of the accordionist’s parents, told during the twenty minutes he plays the piece, My Favorite Piece is the Goldberg Variations finds in Andreas Borregaard an exceptional artist, capable of drawing tears in a Shostakovich-like lamento, and then at the appearance of the theme of the Bach variations.” — AltaMusica (machine translated from French)
My Favourite Piece is the Goldberg Variations was commissioned and first performed by Andreas Borregaard, with support from the Norwegian Academy of Music. The first ‘performance’ was at Borealis Festival 2021, and, owing to Covid-19 restrictions, took the form of a music video made by Pierre Martin using found footage, Andreas’ family footage, and footage of him performing the piece.
Duration: 23 minutes
Set-up: Solo accordion who also speaks and sings. Amplification of the accordion and the voice is usually required.