The Free-Reed Review
Critiques of Compact Discs, Books and Music Scores
Music Scores Review: Concertina Connection Music Publications
Music for the English Concertina
Publisher: Concertina Connection Music Publications
Catalog released: 1999
Concertina Solo: Treble
Concertina Solo: Baritone
Concertina and Piano
Concertina and Violin
Review by Henry Doktorski:
The Dutch concertina player, Willem Wakker, has undertaken an ambitious and noteworthy mission: to create beautiful and professional editions of original music for the English concertina, an instrument which has a long history of quality music written expressly for it. To further this goal he has created the Concertina Connection Music Publications, a publishing house devoted not only to reprinting the nineteenth-century repertoire, but also publishing works for the English concertina by contemporary composers.
Wakker's interest in the concertina came in a roundabout way. He studied concert accordion at the Sweelinck Conservatory in Amsterdam, where he used to practice between four and six hours per day. After graduation he accepted an invitation to study in the United States with Robert Davine at the Lamont School of Music in Denver, Colorado. Despite (and because of) his devotion to the accordion, Wakker began getting severe headaches as well as stiffness and numbness in his hands and arms. He became a patient of a well-known Mensendieck therapist who specialized in musicians and began a vigorous program of physical therapy. Unfortunately, the problems continued and Wakker was forced to abandon his heavy accordion, an instrument which, he claimed, "wore down my neck vertebrae to a point that I could not play professionally anymore."
Wakker continued, "After a while you accept it [the fact that I would never play accordion again] and find another instrument to concentrate on. For me it has been the English concertina. It combines my interest in 19th century music and my interest in free reed instruments. It still puzzles me that no professional accordionist before me ever looked into this instrument. It has that one thing that the accordion has not, and that still prevents it from being fully accepted; a vast original (tonal) concert repertoire from before 1900, equal in quality and quantity to that of the flute, clarinet, etc. that still has to be discovered."
for the complete transcript of this letter, see The Accordion: A Back Breaker? Part One
Yet even after learning the English concertina, Wakker was frustrated because of the lack of published music for the instrument. All of the nineteenth-century repertoire had been out of print for more than a century and it was understandably difficult to find. He wrote,
"One of my students at the Schumann Academie, Pauline de Snoo, went to England for a short vacation and was interested in searching for the Allegro from the Romance and Allegro for concertina and strings by [Sir George Alexander] Macfarren in the Fitzwilliam Museum. I've been trying to locate this piece for quite a while. Allan Atlas thought that they might have it because of a handwritten note he found somewhere...
"When Pauline went through the card file with compositions by Macfarren (they don't have a computer!) She found an entry stating: Geraldine, a romance for concertina and piano forte.... (She never found the allegro.) No one ever heard of this piece. It's not listed in any catalogue. I had to place the order for the microfilm because students are not allowed to request [reference works] in England! It will probably take another month or so before I'll receive it. Some libraries in England still work with (mostly handwritten) card files instead of computers. I think that there are still many compositions to be found in forgotten card files."
As Wakker is not a person who shirks from difficulty (when the going gets tough, the tough get going), he decided to tackle the problem head on and so began his own publishing company, the Concertina Connection Music Publications. I was thrilled to receive these twenty-two volumes in the mail. Each piece is professionally typeset, printed and bound. (Wim gave credit to his wife Karen who, he claimed, did most of the work.) There are separate parts for concertina and accompanying instrument. The collection presents a broad range of styles and technical requirements.
The Three Divertimentos (1850) for solo concertina by Charles Eulenstein are probably the simplest pieces in the collection, demanding little in technical or musical skills from the performer. I suspect they were written for intermediate students. On the other hand, Remembrance (1872) for solo baritone concertina by Giulio Regondi (probably the greatest virtuoso ever on the instrument) is an extremely difficult, yet profoundly satisfying and beautiful musical showpiece.
Most of the fourteen nineteenth century works were originally published by the London firm, Wheatstone & Co. of London, but other publishers, such as Levesque & Company of London, Addison, Hollier and Lucas, and Joseph Scates of Dublin, are also represented.
The eight twentieth-century pieces (all published in 1999) are a special treat in this collection. All have centers of well defined tonality and therefore I believe will be accessible to most listeners. Several deserve special mention, such as Alla Borzova's Pinsk & Blue for concertina and piano, which consists of a leisurely paced rubato introduction followed by a theme and eleven variations. The piece was commissioned by Allan Atlas. Stephen Jackman's Two Jazz Duets for two treble concertinas was clever. I would love to hear this piece, as it looks like it would be fun to play.
In conclusion, I heartily congratulate Willem Wakker and the Concertina Connection Music Publications for his significant contribution to the advancement of the concertina in classical music and I wish him all success. I suggest readers interested in either historical or modern works for the English concertina request the free catalog. This collection is a must for lovers of the concertina.
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