The Free-Reed Review
Critiques of Compact Discs, Books and Music Scores
The Incredible Concertina
Review by Henry Doktorski:
The Center For The Study Of Free-Reed Instruments (CSFRI) at The Graduate School and University Center of The City University of New York has done it again. Director Allan Atlas has consistently organized and executed exemplary events which cater to classical (and not so classical) free-reed lovers. Atlas explained, "the CSFRI is devoted to fostering and serving as a resource for scholarly research on all aspects—history, organology, iconography, sociology, repertory, performance practices, etc.—of all free-reed instruments, whether in the world of 'art music' or that of folk and pop traditions."
This recital (the fourth annual CSFRI event) was sold out! (How many free-reed concerts are SOLD OUT?) Concertina lovers came out in droves from across the Eastern seaboard (and farther) to witness an historic recital in honor of the inventor of the concertina, Sir Charles Wheatstone, for the celebration of his bicentennial (he was born in 1802).
I admit that classical is my favorite music, but verily I enjoyed ALL the performances. Atlas contracted some superb musicians for this nearly three-hour-long marathon concert. Each performer or group played about twenty to thirty minutes. I was overwhelmed by everyone.
I'll start with Allan Atlas himself. Although he doesn't have much time to practice the concertina due to his busy work schedule as professor at CUNY, he proved himself a virtuoso performer by tossing off several flashy Victorian selections including Donizetti's La Fille du reggimento. His short original cadenza was especially noteworthy, and the atmosphere was so relaxed that he joked about it during his performance! For a man normally steeped in academia, he sure let his hair down!
Concertina virtuoso Wim Wakker flew in from Holland that morning to perform several contemporary and Victorian original works for concertina and piano. Despite his jet lag, he performed precisely and articulately. His piano accompanist, Paul R. Van der Reijden, deserves special commendation; his playing was unusually sensitive and clear.
The folk performers were equally well-prepared. Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin performed Irish tunes on the Anglo concertina, Jody and Tom Kruskal performed, also on the Anglo, a medley of Morris dance tunes, and David Cornell brought the house down with his singing and playing sea shanties and other fun songs on the MacCann Duet concertina. What an entertainer! And a fine musician as well.
I wish I was as happy with the performances by the South African Boeremusiek contingency (several members who flew in from South Africa), but they were sadly unprepared and unrehearsed. Apparently several members of the ensemble had never met until that morning, which was unfortunate. I was, however, impressed with the confident and expert playing of Stephaan van Zyl on the Anglo and Crane Duet concertinas. He seemed to hold the ensemble together.
All in all, a delightful evening. I look forward to next year's CSFRI annual concert. For more information about The Center for the Study of Free-Reed Instruments, see http://web.gsuc.cuny.edu/freereed.
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