Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Album Review- Concert Accordion Artistry of Robert Davine

Robert Davine’s album, the Concert Accordion Artistry of Robert Davine, is modern music on a classic instrument. There is a nice sampling of modern classical music, but not much variety.

You are probably asking yourself, "Do I like accordion music enough to buy an entire album of it?"

Probably the bigger question for this album is, "Do I like modern classical music enough to buy an entire album of it?"

The background of some selections is played by the Lamont Chamber Orchestra. The accordion is featured as a solo instrument, but if you don't like the style of the music, you will hardly notice that it's being played on an accordion. Lots of atonal stuff and discordant harmonies. I didn't think there was very much variety in the selections. However, the album is unusual in that most of the pieces are serious music that were written specifically for accordion. That counts for something in itself.

Davine was Professor of Accordion and Theory at the University of Denver, Lamont School of Music. It was one of the three academic music courses offered in the entire United States. Davine founded the school's accordion department in the late 1950s. He taught until his death, at age 77, on November 25, 2001. There is no question that he is a virtuoso accordionist. The issue is whether this style of music is pleasurable to listen to.

There are liner notes which give more information about the selections, the composers, and also about their performance on accordion.

One hour, 18 tracks

Hans Lang: Prelude and Fugue in C- This piece is almost entirely accordion, and is the most pleasant to listen to on the album

Cecil Effinger: Nocturne- another accordion solo piece. This one seems to have snatches of melodies from time to time but then goes off in unexpected patterns, leaving the typical dissatisfaction of modern music.

Paul Creston: Prelude and Dance, opus 69- this solo is unusual in that it was written particularly for accordion. After a long prelude that doesn't speak to me at all, the dance section is actually melodic and makes one feel like dancing.

Ted Zarlengo: Suite for Accordion, Cello and Piano- again, this piece is unusual in that it was written to take advantage of the particular features of these instruments. There are five movements: Prelude, Scherzo, Pastoral, Interlude and Gigue. This piece is a long atonal collections of phrases that leave me cold. It's mostly piano and cello, but the accordion is heard more in Gigue.

Adamo Volpi: Peludio, opus 31- This is a bit like a Bach fugue, and anyone who has tried to play clear, fast runs on the accordion without muddying them will appreciate the rendition.

Normand Lockwood: Sonata- Fantasy- This piece was written for accordion after the composer heard Davine play. There are three movements: Contemplative, Allegro giocoso, and Adagio serioso. The playing is magnificent. The Fantasy will be appreciated only by those who really like discordant and unrhythmic modern music.

John Gart: Vivo- This piece moves with lightning speed, living up to its name.

Carmelo Pino: Concertino for Strings and Accordion- Again, the music is played beautifully, but the atonal patterns won't please if you don't like this kind of music. There are three movements: Allegro, Andante, and Presto.

David Diamond: Night Music- This is a mood piece. The strings are more dominant.

Matyas Seiber: Introduction and Allegro- This is written for cello and accordion, and the richness of the two instruments. I like this piece the most of any on the album. Although it still has the style of modern music, it really plays one instrument against the other, and they both come through sounding great.

I have to say that this is one of my least favorite of all the accordion albums I own, although it's probably important to have just because of the talent of Davine, and the fact that it shows the accordion can be played as a serious instrument.