Toralf Tollefsen

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Toralf Tollefsen born in Glammen, Norway 1914, of a musical background, his family all musicians.  His own choice was an accordion, his studies began at the age of 6 years, on a melodeon.  He moved to Oslo where he attended the Oslo Conservatory of Music, at this time the accordion was not covered and it was necessary to study the violin.  At the age of 10 he was broadcasting on Radio Oslo's Children's hour.

In 1929, Ottar Akre came to Oslo from the USA where he was trying to establish the accordion, Ottar was a wonderful accordion teacher and musician.  He was appointed as teacher at the Oslo Conservatory of Music, Toralf Tollefsen commenced as student.  Toralf was the first accordionist to be accepted in the Norwegian Union of Musicians, he was busy in films, radio, and recording.  At the age of 18 he recorded his first solo recording for Columbia Records.

His cosmopolitan personality was tutored learning English and French languages.  In 1931 he got his first engagement on BBC.  Following this, he was engaged by CB Cochran, famous impresario, to appear in his Streamline Revue.  He met his future wife Nona, a member of Cochran's famous dance troup.  Nona and Toralf were married in 1939, they set off on a tour of Scandinavia and appeared at the National Scala, Copenhagen, an outstanding success.

The German invasion began and it was very hard for the Tollefsen family.  They joined the Resistance for which he received medals after the war.  He helped the war effort by giving concerts for food. Nona helped the Resistance smuggling arms in the bottom of the pram, Sonia Marie occupied.

The variety part of his shows gave way to more classical music, but his repertoire contained every kind of music, including singalongs, semi classics and classical music.   He came back to UK with a one and a half hour recital of classical music in the Wigmore Hall in 1947, and played Pietro Diero's Concerto for Accordion at the Albert Hall with the International Symphony Orchestra.  Neither of the venues had ever featured and accordion, this was indeed a breakthrough for the instrument.   In 19949 he appeared at a full house in the Times Hall, New York, appearing on the radio and television in the USA.  This wonderful man gave so much to the world of the accordion, its stature, its recognition and its true popularity with a personality infectious on meeting this man.

When I was a little girl, of no more than 2 years old I sat on Toralf Tollefsen's knee, my mother and father were both accordionists, and had taken me to the concert.   Meeting him once again on one of his last appearances in Concert in the UK, I recalled the instance to him, and he had remembered the evening, and recalled the artistes that had played with him that evening.  When I first said, 'do you remember I sat on your knee' he was relieved when I said I was just 2 years old.

I grew up listening to all the wonderful recordings he made, The Concert Waltz, The Cuckoo Waltz, Overture to the Marriage of Figaro, Hungarian Rhapsody no 2, Invitation to a Waltz, Hora Staccato, Polonaise in A Flat, Hejre Kati, El Relicario, the Diero, the Frosini pieces, the wonderful original compositions written or arranged by Toralf Tollefsen, pieces too numerous to mention.  He touched so many lives, with his playing, his personality, his revolutionary breakthroughs for the instrument, he has left the world much richer with his passing, Maestro, we can celebrate your life whenever we pick up the accordion.

Gina, March 2000.

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