A CD Review by Dr. Paul Allan Magistretti
The Accordionists and Teachers Guild, International has compiled an intriguing anthology from its talented roster of members. It contains a wide selection of material from some of the best free-reed artists in the world. The results demonstrate tremendous individual talent and the accomplished beauty of the instrument across a broad musical spectrum.
Fittingly, the CD begins with the late Anthony Galla-Rini playing his own arrangement of the Jerome Kern song, The Way You Look Tonight. Despite the age of the source, obviously an old 78 record with some sonic challenge, the maestro shines through. On my first listening it seemed too dense and richly varied to be an artistic whole, especially in the under three minute time limit required by the old format. It sounded like multiple choruses combined as one, something Oscar Peterson would do over numerous da capos. But on subsequent listening it emerged for me as an overture conveying with a single instrument an orchestral prelude for what was to follow: drama, romance and comedy-a perfect way to raise the curtain on this CD.
The University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) Community Accordion Orchestra does a rendition of Piazzolla's Melodia in A Minor; it's as rich and heartfelt as any interpretation of Piazzolla on record; beautifully modulated and expressive.
Frank Marocco leaps in like Lester (Young) with Samba Italiano and swings and sings in a fierce and beautiful style.
The late Robert Sattler plays a work by his teacher-mentor Vatchieslav Semionov, Belolitsa-Kruglolitsa (White Faced, Round Faced) that solidly displays his soloist talent on a folk song improvisation that's voiced beautifully suggestive of a full chamber orchestra. His performance makes all the more tragic his early passing.
Many consider Friedrich Lips the premiere classical bayanist in the world and he demonstrates precisely why with a rendition of Albeniz' Asturias, a challenging study from the Cantalonian composer that is often played by world-class performers, but never better than here.
Betty Jo Simon does an excellent rendition of Ravel's Bolero that only needed Torvil and Deane ice dancing to complete it.
John Bonica answers Betty Jo's Ravel-izing with the traditional Tarantella Don Augusto-joyful and full-bodied, an offer hard to refuse.
Stas Venglevski plays E. A. McDowell's Witches Dance from his excellent CD Adagio, Romance and Beyond. He plays this manic Terpsichorean miniature cleanly and lightning fast; it's over before you know it-witches begone and you have to hit repeat to know they were there.
Henry Doktorski's CD A Classical Christmas contains this excellent performance by him as soloist on Bizet's Faradole: March of the Three Kings with chamber orchestra; it's beautifully done.
Øvind Farmen plays one of the best renditions of a Scarlatti Sonata (A Major, K 24, Allegro) I've heard, comparable to the incomparable Mia Miki, which is saying a lot.
John Simkus performs a sensitive version of a Stas Venglevki original, In the Garden, from a new collection of originals from Stas. It's interesting to experience one of the world's best jazz artists approaching what is essentially a lehrstück (part of a series) with depth and sincerity.
Lidia Kaminska (bayan) and Carmen Maret (flute) perform J. S. Bach's Sonata for Flute and Harpsichord in G Minor, BWV 1020 beautifully, as good as I've heard it performed and the accordion far outshines the original designated instrument in expressiveness.
Nick Ballarini supplies his Chitlin's N' Gravy Waltz, a flavorful, syncopated jazz waltz that's down home and maniacally tasty.
Dee Langley presents Two Rumanian Horas, traditional Jewish Klezmer songs from the Skweezergrabbit album [a Yiddishism for Grab It & Squeeze]. A sinuous, haunting Sephardic tune is followed by a rousing celebration that will have you shouting-La chaim.
The 'K' Trio plays Five O'clock Rush, a nice swing tune in a beautifully voiced trio performance that not only sounds like a big band arrangement, but replicates one of the best big bands playing it.
Jorgen Sundeqvist plays a blazing rendition Snurran Polka. I don't think you'll ever hear a cleaner more breathless rendition of a polka on earth.
Amy Jo Sawer plays her original Brazilian Suite in three movements (Carnival, Evening & Celebration); it's evocative and nicely realized in conception and execution. The opening Carnival is particularly good.
AKORDEONAM plays Ravel's Prelude from Le Tombeau de Couperin-a piano suite in six movements composed 1914-1917 in memory of his friends who had died in the First World War. Ravel later orchestrated 1, 3, 5 & 4 (in that order) in 1919. This is an interesting repertoire selection; it was extremely well played and I wanted to hear the entire suite.
The Moscow Duo (Aleksander Ushakov and Evgenij Grehov) delivers a heated performance of Piazzolla's Fuga capturing every bit of the maestro's alchemic fusion of Bach/Jazz & Tango; it's darkly passionate and irresistible.
Finally Boris Veksler plays his own A La Musette-crisp, lively and with lots of panache; his touch is lightning fast and crystal clear; very nicely done.