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CD Review: Carmen Carrozza, Accordion
Total time: 36:06
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Carmen Carrozza, Accordion
Review by: Henry Doktorski
Carmen Carrozza is a legendary American concert accordionist. Born in a small town in Calabria, Italy, in 1921, he came to the United States with his family at the age of nine. He studied music and became proficient on the violin and piano, but early on discovered he had a great love for the piano-accordion.
In 1937 he graduated from the Pietro Deiro Accordion Conservatory in Greenwich Village, New York City, and continued his studies at the New York Academy of Music where he specialized in theory, harmony, counterpoint and composition. His professional debut took place in 1947 at the Philadelphia Academy of music. He then appeared at such prestigious concert halls as Carnegie Hall, Town Hall, Times Hall, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, etc., and other halls in France, Germany, England, Sweden, Finland, Russia and Italy.
Carrozza premiered several important original works for the accordion, such as Paul Creston's Concerto for Accordion and Orchestra, and Alan Hovhaness' Rubaiyat.
Carrozza performed Creston's concerto with the Boston Pops Symphony Orchestra under Arthur Fiedler, and also toured with Fiedler and the Boston Pops at various colleges. He also played Creston's concerto with the Cincinnati Orchestra under Thomas Schippers, the United States Navy Band under Lt. Comm. Anthony A. Mitchell, and with the United States Army Band.
Carrozza performed Hovhaness' Rubaiyat with the Buffalo Symphony Orchestra (1977), the New York Philharmonic (1977), and the Washington National Symphony (1978) under Andre Kostelanetz. He also performed the Rubaiyat with the Philadelphia Pops Orchestra (early 1980s) under Peter Nero, and the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra (1995) under Kim Allen Kuge.
Off hand I cannot think of any other American accordionist (myself included) who has performed as a soloist with such internationally renowned and important orchestras.
I found this CD particularly interesting because it consists mostly of live performances recorded in the 1950s and 1960s (some tracks were remastered from vinyl records and some from tape). At that time the accordion was incredibly popular in this country, yet classical accordionists were still extremely rare. Carrozza was one of those rare accordionists who had the training, musicianship, technique and personal motivation to perform "serious" music for accordion. Who else was doing this in the United States?
There were certainly many great American accordionists at the time, but they performed mostly in the popular music field, such as Myron Floren (Lawrence Welk Champaign Music), Dick Contino (Lady of Spain and other showpieces), Charles Magnante (jazz, novelties and standards), etc. Although these great performers sometimes performed classical works, their specialities were elsewhere.
This was an era I was too young to experience directly, but now due to this compact disc, I can re-live those exciting times. The live 1962 New York newscaster radio broadcast (Jack Walters speaking about a forthcoming Carrozza performance) provides a stirring memorial to his musical achievements.
My personal favorite tracks are the recordings of the American Accordionists Association commissioned works: Creston's Prelude and Dance, Tcherepnin's Partita, and Riegger's Cooper Square. These are interesting and well-crafted original works for the accordion which are rarely heard.
Some of the recordings were originally performed on Sano and Excelsior accordions and recorded on a monaural tape deck, but that particular sound only adds to the atmosphere of the times. Although this CD is short by contemporary standards (only 36 minutes), I still recommend it for all classical accordion lovers.
Producer Dr. Joseph Ciccone (Carrozza's nephew) explained why this CD is so short:
"Originally the Creston concerto (which is 19 minutes playing time) was on the original master of this CD, which would have made the total playing time 55:06. We had a deadline (March 17, 2002) to meet because on that day, the American Accordion Association was presenting Carmen with the first Lifetime Achievement Award. Unfortunately, in the midst of production we were unable to obtain the legal rights of the live recording from the Boston Pops before this deadline, forcing us to remove it from this CD."
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