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CD Review: John Molinari and Veikko Ahvenainen
The Historic Recordings

John Molinari and Veikko Ahvenainen, Accordions

Total time: 93:32
Produced by Accordia
Released: 2005

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  1. Mozart: Marriage of Figaro Overture
  2. Chopin: Waltz in Em
  3. Ponchielli: Dance of the Hourst
  4. Italian Medley
  5. Canadian Capers
  6. Fagerlahden Hambo
  7. Finnish Polka Medley
  8. Daquin: The Cuckoo
  9. My Sweetheart
  10. Kenonen's Polka
  11. The Nightingale
  12. Sakkijarvi Polka
  13. Gounod: Waltz from Faust
  14. Sibelius: Finlandia
  15. Adamo Volpi: Preludio
  16. Galuppi: Presto
  17. Bach: Toccata in Dm
  18. Smetana: Dance of the Comedians
  19. Paganini: La Campanella
  20. Liszt: Liebestraum
  21. Godzinsky: Hungarian Fantasy
  22. Manuel de Falla: Ritual Fire Dance
  23. Katchaturian: Sabre Dance
  24. Fancelli: Aquarelli Cubani
  25. Grieg: March of the Dwarves
  26. Rimsky-Korsakov: Flight of the Bumblebee
  27. Merikanto: Midsummer Night Waltz
  28. Finnish Polka Medley
  29. Finnish Folk Dance
  30. Magnante: Accordion Boogie

Review by: Henry Doktorski

John Molinari (1912-1989) was one of the great masters of the accordion. As a teenager he appeared as a featured act in California vaudeville theaters. During World War II he toured the South Pacific with USO Camp Shows and entertained Allied troops. After the war, he performed at exclusive supper clubs and hotels, such as the Waldorf Astoria in New York City and the Fairmont in San Francisco. He accompanied famous opera stars, and appeared with the Andrew Sisters and Fred Waring. In 1967, 1969 and 1972 he toured Europe and the Soviet Union with Veikko Ahvenainen.

Veikko Ahvenainen (b. 1929) is undoubtedly the most famous Finnish concert accordionist. He has performed all over the world during his long and distinguished career, including concerts at Tchaikovsky Hall in Moscow, Philharmonic Hall in Saint Petersburg, and University Hall in Beijing. He has made over 700 recordings.

Out of all his 700 records, I think this double CD is special. It is a live recording of two concerts in Michigan; one in 1966 and one in 1968. Molinari appeared with Ahvenainen at the 1968 concert, which was recorded in South Range, Michigan. This is CD one. On this CD Molinari plays five solos, Ahvenainen plays three solos, and the artists play six duets. The recording captures the electricity of the live performances, and the audience's appreciations of applause. Veikko's playing is immaculate, although Molinari seems sometimes to have a little trouble with difficult passages. The duets are especially exciting: Marriage of Figaro, Kenonen's Polka, The Nightingale, Waltz from Faust, Sakkijarvi Polka, and Finlandia.

It sounds like the accordions use microphones and amplifiers for the left-hand manual, which I believe was common during that era, as Magnante pioneered the amplification for the left hand. The result is tasteful; although the left hand is powerful, with accented low frequencies, the balance between right and left is good.

The second CD features solos by Ahevenainen during a 1966 concert at Suomi College in Hancock Michigan. I heartily recommend this historic CD for all lovers of the classical accordion.

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