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Concert Review: BACH!/ VEGAS!/ DOG!

CD Image Three days of master classes and concerts
presented by the American Accordionists' Association.

Tenri Gallery
New York City,
August 29-31, 1997.
Review by Barry L. Cohen,
editor in Chief of The New Music Connoisseur:

This year's New York festival of the classical accordion, organized by Dr. William Schimmel, once again sought to balance humor with seriousness of purpose. The three days of master classes and three evenings of concerts attracted a goodly audience which filled all of the seats at the gallery auditorium at the final Sunday concert. The question of how much "new music" would be presented was uppermost in our minds, and we must report that, though Baroque and folk dominated the early proceedings, and there were some "ruff-ruff" moments in the middle, a few startling entries in the final program did justify our attendance.

While there were many guffaws and teehees heard during those by now characteristically unpredictable dramatic accompaniments (sometimes known as skits) to music by Schimmel—compositions that ranged from a videotape by Micki Goodman (Mrs. Schimmel) to the slightly gross yet often touching Sonata for Accordion and Dog (Kirk Nunn), through the rather wryly serious Requiem Suite (Schimmel), which deals with no less a subject than capital punishment—the purely musical works are what caught our attention. These included the melodically moving and extensive (11:25) tribute to the Native American spirit in Schimmel's The White Buffalo and Paul Creston's energetic Embryo Suite for solo accordion (5:16).

We also heard two brief works by Patrick Hardish, a spiritually resonant Ave Maria (2:35) (played as a memoriam to Princess Diana) and an energetically chromatic, finger-twisting Invention (2:30). Most ambitious and daring was Robert Young McMahan's Sonata da Chiesa for oboe and accordion (6:50), a Baroque notion in modern atonal dress, as well as Lee McClure's Digital Bach (2:10) in which he played the flute accompanied by digital delay effects and Schimmel's barking concertina.

Godfrey Nelson's Samba and Fugue for guitar, piano, accordion and tape (6:40) flirts with classical pretense in pop style and a pointillistic melody line over a steady ostinato to recall (sort of) Heitor Villa Lobos's Little Train of the Caipira. William Kamaiko's rather New-Age Eucharist (6:22) for piano and accordion uses a repeated pattern punctuated by a bolder secondary melody for dramatic contrast. (Bow) Wow!

Among the outstanding performers were accordionists Schimmel and McMahan, as well as Paul Stein (Union Songs), Thomas Massucci (Mozart/Faure), and Henry Doktorski (Baroque selections). Jacqueline Leclair was a fine partner as oboist in the McMahan sonata. Mr. McClure's flute and Mr. Kamaiko's piano were also upbeat. Mr. Doktorski and Ray Rue (an Elvis Presley impersonator) shared the judges' prize in the Barokey Karaoke Contest. Hot dog!

Photo: Dr. William Schimmel. This review originally appeared in The New Music Connoisseur.

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