The Free-Reed Journal
Articles and Essays Featuring Classical Free-Reed Instruments and Performers

Concertina Literature, Part 2

by Hilding Bergquist
Minneapolis, Minn.

This article was reprinted in its entirety from the October, 1950 issue of Accordion World (New York).

With this article I conclude my bibliographies of original concertina works, the following comprising those by Mac Farren, Bosen, Holbrooke, and a few others.

George A. Macferren (1813-1887) was a distinguished English composer, writing in all forms, which included some very fine compositions for the concertina.

On May 25, 1854 at the Hanover Square Rooms, was given the first playing of his Quintet in A (Romance and Allegro Agitato, for concertina, violin, viola, cello, and double bass, which he wrote and dedicated especially to performing concertinist, Richard Blagrove. It was given on June 1, and described as being "very quaint and admirably written." It was seemingly not published.

On June 7, 1877, at the Royal Academy of Music Concert Room, was given an "Andante and Allegro" for concerto and strings, composed by MacFarren for Blagrove. It is stated that he wrote only a Quintet in A, so whether these playings were actually of the same work, I cannot say. At any rate, they have not been published.

On page 371 of the biographical book of Mac Farren and Banister, published in 1892 in London, is mentioned a Concerto for Concertina, but details are lacking of this major work, and the Wheatstone Company knows nothing about it. Apparently it lies today a forgotten and lost MS somewhere. Also, he gave no opus numbers to his works except a few printed in Leipzig, Germany.

One of my references states that MacFarren wrote a Romance for concertina, published by Blagrove Co. in 1853. And the Banister book, page 267, states that he wrote two Romances for Concertina and Piano, also written by Blagrove, but which were not published together - one in 1856 and the other in 1859. At any rate, I find that in 1856 the Addison Co. published his Geraldine (Romance), which was also published by Ashdown. It is out of print today, and it is not listed by Wheatstone, this firm being the only one in England still publishing concertina music. Also for concertina and piano was published in 1856 by Wheatstone, his Violetta (Romance), still available from Wheatstone, no. 2320, and his A Barcarolle also available from Wheatstone, no. 2325. Also, still available is Romance in A, no 2300, this probably being the above mentioned Geraldine, though I am not sure.

Of Franz Bosen, little seems to be known, even by the present directors of the Wheatstone firm. He composed seemingly only one work for the concertina, but it was a major production, being his Concerto in D Major, published in 1864 by the firms of both Metzler and Wheatstone, in addition with piano. The British Museum, advised me that they all have by Bosen are some 25 pieces, mainly songs and piano selections, but the concerto for concertina is not among them. These pieces were published between 1845 and 1860.

Franz Bosen composed and dedicated his concerto to his friend, Giulio Regondi, who premiered it on June 30th, 1864 at the Hanover Square Rooms, with Francesco Berger at the Piano. (These rooms were also called the Queen's Concert Rooms, Hanover Square). The "Musical World" said: "Bosen's Concerto for the Concertina, judging from the favor with which it was received, pleased most of all. So loud and persistent was the applause at the end that Segnor Regondi was compelled to return to the platform.

Richard Blagrove also played Bosen's concerto on various occasions, such as that on February 20, 1873 at the Beethoven Rooms of the Royal Academy of Music, with his wife, Miss Freeth, at the piano. (Blagrove, like Regondi, was also wanted to play violin concertos by De Beriot and others on his concertina.)

I am pleased to say that Bosen's concerto is still available today, from Wheatstone, no. 2400, and Kennth C. Chidley, director of the firm, has kindly sent me a copy of it with his express wish that I give it to our own Boris Matusewitch with the compliments of Mr. Chidley, and the firm of Wheatstone. In 1948 I was able to acquire from a party in Germany, Molique's First Concertina Concerto in G Minor, Op. 46, (out of print, in Wheatstone's catalog, no. 2260) which I also gave to Boris, so that now he has two original concertos!

Drawing nearer to our own day, we come to Joseph Holbrooke, who, although he has not written any solo or chamber works for concertina, he has introduced it to magnificent orchestral works.

Holbrooke was born in 1873 (he is still with us) at Croydon, England, near London, where just 8 years before in 1870, Regondi had composed his Second Concertina Concerto in E flat. (Regondi died in 1872.) It has been said that Holbrooke first became interested in the concertina when in his yourth he accompanied his fatehr to the various music halls and variety theaters. Hearing these vaudeville players, he evidently determined to introduce the instrument into a more dignified medium and environment - the orchestra. And in his studies he also likely became aware of the fact that Tschaikowsky in 1883 had scored 4 accordions (although limited instruments then) in the humorous "Scherzo" movement of his Second Orchestra Suite in C, Op. 53, and therefore decided that he would do the same for the then more expressively complete English concertina. Tschaikowsky and Holbrooke were evidently the first to introduce our instruments into the "standard" symphony orchestra. Although Berlioz a century ago included a treatise on the concertina in his "Art of Instrumentation" published in 1844, he apparently never scored for it himself.

Holbrooke says of himself:

"I am known for incorporating many new instrument in my orchestra. I do this, however, not for the sake of developing sound, but because of the new colors and pictures which the poems I select for setting evoke and seem to demand from me, for modern poetry has in it great imagery."

The first work in which he introduces the Concertina was "the Bells", Op. 50, a dramatic poem for chorus and grand orchestra. Although it was completed in September 1903, it was not until the Birmingham Festival in 1906 that it was first given. Shortly after in the same year, it received its London premiere on October 29 at the Queen's Hall, conducted by Hans Richter. The "Musical Standard" said: "As to scoring, need we say no living man in England can touch Holbrooke."

The Classical Free-Reed, Inc. staff gratefully acknowledges volunteer Benjamin Lang who assisted in the production of this article, as well as Stanley Darrow and the comprehensive American Accordion Musicological Society library.

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