The Free-Reed Review
Critiques of Compact Discs, Books and Music Scores
CD Review: Bellows and Pipes
Jörgen Sundeqvist, free-bass accordion
Håkan Dahlén, organ
Total Time: 53:42
Review by: Henry Doktorski
Bellows and Pipes. Bellows and Pipes. An interesting combination. Accordions have bellows and organs have blowers and windchests. A little more than one century ago, before the invention of electric blowers, organs also had bellows which were pumped by strong men on an apparatus like a step treadmill. And of course, organs have pipes and accordions have reeds. The organ and accordion are very similar. Both are wind instruments; simply the type of reeds or pipes differ, source of the air supply, and the size.
The accordion (essentially a little free-reed organ) and the Gudmundrå organ make an excellent combination. The balance between the two instruments was good, and the overall effect was stimulating. I listened to the entire CD cover to cover.
Jörgen Sundeqvist and Håkan Dahlén masterfully display the musical results from the combination of two superb performers, two superb instruments, and three superb pieces: an unforgettable album guaranteed to please any classical free-reed lover.
All three pieces are interesting, well-crafted, and extremely beautiful. All are constructed within widely-different styles of tonality. Galla-Rini's concerto reminds me of Cesar Franck (1822-1890), the great French organist and composer, specially with Håkan Dahlén playing the magnificent 1998 Johannes Menzel 35-stop organ at the Gudmundrå Church in Kramfors, Sweden. The opening of Galla-Rini's concerto sounds something like a Franck organ symphony. It was enough to make your hair stand on end! So exciting and dramatic.
Eugene Zador (1894-1977), a Hungarian-American composer especially known for his film scores in the 1940s, wrote in a post-modern twentieth-century style, pleasant to listen to. (Curiously enough Eugene Zador was mentioned in an article by Hilding Bergquist in an article published in the October 1948 issue of Accordion World. See: The Accordion In The Orchestra.) Eugene Zador's accordion concerto, composed in the early 1970s, was dedicated to Anthony Galla-Rini. The liner notes do not explain if Galla-Rini might have performed the premiere, or if it was ever performed.
Fredrik Högberg's (b. 1971) whimsical Bubble Tune is the most modern of the three, but still accessible.
This is an especially important disc for Americans because of the inclusion of the Galla-Rini concerto; the first recording, to my knowledge. Galla-Rini (born 1904) began his musical career in 1911 by playing various musical instruments with his family in vaudeville theaters. In the 1930s he became a well-known concert artist and educator. His arrangements of classical and popular pieces were of the highest-quality. When other arrangers, like Pietro Deiro, simplified his arrangements so that students wouldn't have much difficulty playing the music, Galla-Rini carefully studied the composers' original scores, and transcribed them for accordion like a master would make a piano reduction of a Beethoven symphony. Some of them are challenging, but musically satisfying for listeners with discriminating taste.
Jörgen Sundeqvist is a natural candidate to record the Galla-Rini concerto, as he studied with Galla-Rini in California for two years and even toured with his mentor in the United States, Candada and Europe in 1981. I have never heard Sundeqvist play as well as he does on this album. His technique and musicianship are incomparable and his beautiful 1996 Petosa Cathedral II sounds heavenly. It must be tuned to A-440 unlike most accordions, because it perfectly blended with the organ. His solo cadenza in the first movement of Gall-Rini's concerto is dramatic and exciting. Sundeqvist is truly a world-class artist of the piano-accordion.
On June 7, 2005, Sundeqvist and Dahlen performed all three works on this CD at the British Swaledale Festival. I hope this duo plays their program all over the world!
Truly a memorable CD; a must for classical accordion lovers.
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