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Concert Review:
Magazine Banner The following review was originally published in the May/June 2004 edition of Accordion World magazine (editor: David Keen). The review was written by Roland Williams and is presented here by the permission of Accordion World. (See our review of Accordion World Magazine) .

Classical Accordion Concerts in the United Kingdom
January-March 2004
A Good Season for Accordion Enthusiasts

The first three months of 2004 have seen some truly splendid accordion concerts in London and also in other parts of the country by some of the world's leading accordionists. On Saturday 31st January Owen Murray welcomed Viacheslas Semionov back to the Royal Academy of Music after much too long an interval of just over 10 years. In the first half of the programme Owen Murray himself contributed two items with cello, one by Elena Firsova and the other by Saint-Saens.For sheer beauty and richness of sound using an accordion it would have been difficult to beat the performance Owen gave of Priere (op 158) by Camille Saint-Saens. Later in the programme Milos Milivojevic produced also some very pleasing sonic effects in a new trio for accordion, cello, and percussion by Artem Vasilev.

Semionov himself played an excellent varied programme, which showed off his great mastery of differing styles of music with wonderful displays of technique on the way. Beginning with Astor Piazzolla (Pedro y Pedro) and Bent Lorentzen's Tears (played slightly romantically) Semionov proceeded to some of his own well known pieces including the Children's Suite No 2, Brahnzsiana and his Bulgarian Suite. Also in the programme he introduced us to a new extremely haunting and chilling SOS Caprice No 2 dedicated to the victims of the Kursk submarine disaster. The concert finished with enthusiastic demands for an encore to which the accordionist/composer responded with a movement from his most popular piece Don Rhapsody. Hopefully Semionov will return again well before another ten years have elapsed. He has just completed his largest work to date, a concerto for accordion and orchestra. We must hope that a UK performance becomes possible.

The Richard Galliano
Septet, UK Tour

The second major accordion event, which unfortunately was not notified to ACCORDION WORLD'S diary of events, was a quick tour of the UK by Richard Galliano and his new Septet as part of the UK Jazz Festival on 11th, 12th, 13th and 16th March in Bristol, Manchester, London and Cambridge. Galliano played to very full and enthusiastic audiences at each venue. The Barbican Concert Hall in London was full to capacity and an audience that gave Galliano such a rousing standing ovation that he had to play no less than three encores. Galliano of all artists proves that an accordionist really can fill concert halls, for the Barbican Concert Hall holds around 2,000 people in its auditorium. Galliano with his new Septet not only produces a very special sound of his own, based on a fusion of Piazzolla, French musette, classical and jazz styles, but with an amazing verve and virtuosity, elegance and finesse achieved by very few performers.

Friedrich Lips at the Royal Academy of Music

Finally in the week following Galliano there was another opportunity to hear Friedrich Lips at the Royal Academy on 18th March and to hear him teach in a Masterclass on Saturday 20th March. Lips' own programme provided an opportunity to hear some of his latest commissioned music in addition to some brilliant performances of transcription music, Khachaturian, Strauss and Rossini, which always delight audiences. The likely impact of new music is always difficult to assess, as it not infrequently gives the impression of being written without thought of its audience appeal. Efrem Podgaitz's Fantasie in Memory of Alfred Schnittke definitely does not leave this impression--a tonal piece with a clear opening and closing subject with a tango rhythm in between, it may well become established as part of the general repertoire for advanced players like so many other pieces of Lips' repertoire.

Lips' Masterclass on Saturday 20th March provided some interesting discussion but was undoubtedly partly a missed opportunity. A number of participants were invited to take part but declined. A very good performance was given by Lisa Lee Leslie of Handel's Fantasie in C major, which led to an excellent discussion by Lips of the manner and technique of playing baroque music on the accordion—care with phrasing, use of fingers and bellows to produce leggiero sound, avoidance of a romantic style of playing and keeping within 18th century bounds and much else. Lisa demonstrated many points as Lips spoke in an excellent manner from which hopefully both she and the audience gained much. To father John Leslie's obvious satisfaction Lips spoke of the benefits of scale practice, broken chords, arpeggios and how they should be practiced. An excellent lesson for all. After a discussion of new music Milos Milivojevic played Semionov's Don Rhapsody (first movement). Again for those who play this piece they will doubtless have taken away a new view and understanding of it, its origin, what it represents and how it should be projected.

A final discussion covered the ground of how and why Russia was so successful in accordion playing and the teaching of young people to play, (with interventions not least by the Editor of ACCORDION WORLD!). Lips' answer to the question as to how the UK could improve was the need he thought for a closer co-operation within the accordion movement with a clear unity of purpose '...there was a need everywhere' he said for a collective energy to work towards common goals'.

Roland Williams
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