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Book Review: William Schimmel

Falling From Grace
Autobiography of an Accordionist

total pages: about one inch thick (one sided sheets)
copyright: 1994

order from: William Schimmel
242 East 89th Street, No. 2-D
New York, NY 10128

telephone: 212-876-0827

Review by Henry Doktorski:

Falling From Grace is a collection/smattering of Dr. William Schimmel's writings, press releases, drawings, reviews and music scores. This book is a visual/literary version of his music: eclectic, spontaneous, completely devoid of pretense, sometimes serious -- sometimes funny and informal. It is unique in several ways:

Some of the sections are titled:

I found this book enjoyable; it sheds a fascinating glimpse into the personal life of one of America's greatest accordionists. Sometimes the stories are serious, as in Schimmel's story about the death of his next door neighbor, Mr. Emper, and subsequent service as an altar boy at the funeral.

Sometimes the stories are hilarious, as in "Mr. Needleman," a dramatized story about little Billy Schimmel's close encounter with Dr. Back. I laughed and laughed. In fact, I'd like to perform this little musical play myself!

Not everyone will like this book, just as not everyone likes Schimmel's music. Some time ago I received one letter from an accordionist who purchased Falling From Grace sight unseen by mail-order; he absolutely hated it and considered it a total waste of money.

I, however, found this "book" stimulating reading and entertaining also. I have my own criticisms: there are several redundant sections of the book; some information (especially press releases and Schimmel's artist biographies) is repeated more than is necessary and while reading I found myself skipping over sections that I had seen before.

Never-the-less, I believe that this book will be treasured by avant garde accordion aficionados.

About William Schimmel
(taken from the penultimate page of Falling From Grace:

Dr. Schimmel has an earned Doctorate of Music from the Julliard School of Music. He is a composer, author, lecturer, philosopher and virtuoso accordionist. He performs music from the classical realm to pop and has performed and recorded with every major symphony orchestra. Pop stars range from Sting to Tom Waits, who says, "Bill Schimmel doesn't play the accordion; he is the accordion. He is regarded as the "World's Greatest Accordionist" by National Public Radio.

He is considered also an authority on Kurt Weill. He has recorded all Weill's music with accordion. He is a prolific composer from concert stage to Broadway theater, including thousands of accordion works, test pieces, and commissions from the American Accordion Association (AAA).

Bill is the founder of the renowned Tango Project, he appeared with Oscar-winning Al Pacino in the film Scent of a Woman and has commissioned prominent composers. Keyboard Magazine (1992) cited Dr. Schimmel as "Best Accordionist" and the figure who philosophically has done the most to elevate the accordion's image in mainstream musical forms, such as classical, ethnic, avant garde and pop. Dr. Schimmel theater works made accordion history.

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