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CD Review: The Magic Accordion of Yehuda Oppenheimer
Yehuda Oppenheimer - Accordionist

total time: 59:10
released: 1998
review date: November 2004
Pieces 1-8 Composed by Yehuda Oppenheimer
Pieces 9-15 Arranged by Yehuda Oppenheimer
  1. Eilat (valse)
  2. Fr Adina (valse)
  3. Jaffa Nights (valse)
  4. Valse Romantique
  5. Bingo (polka)
  6. The Magic Accordion (valse)
  7. Images of Israel (suite)
    Caravan, Dance of the Sabra's, Kumsitz
  8. Chaconne (Variations on a Portuguese Song "La Folia"
  9. Prelude in C minor - Chopin
  10. Allegro - Fiocco
  11. Air (from Suite No. 3) - J. S. Bach
  12. Concertino - Benjamin Cimarosa
    Larghetto, Allegro, Allegro Giusto
  13. Staccato for Flute - Civelli
  14. Choral - J. S. Bach
  15. Pillar of Fire - Shem-Tov Levi
  16. Rhapsody Israelienne - Marc Lavry

label: DCD Ltd, Israel
Review by: Robert Stead

A good program is one that offers a mix of pieces that includes folk and classical music. Given that definition, Yehuda Oppenheimer offers us a quality program in his "Magic Accordion" CD. The first eight pieces which were composed by Mr Oppenheimer place us in the folk world. These selections display both a lightness (which I find delightful!) and a complexity which I find engaging. Some of the pieces (such as Eilat) employ overdubbing which simulates an accordion orchestra. These pieces draw heavily upon modes. Images of Israel is especially modal and distinctly Middle Eastern in its motifs. Chaconne provides an excellent bridge between the folk portion of the album and the classical offerings. Mr Oppenheimer takes the folk song "La Folia" and puts it through a classical form of theme and variation. The heart of the piece speaks with an organ-like voice.

Each of the pieces have a lively ebb and flow. Each breathes with a very human breath. Each that is, except for Valse Romantique. This piece uses what sounds like a MIDI percussion track which, due to its machine-like consistency, prevents the piece from breathing. I think the piece should have either been played without the percussion track, or the percussion should have been modified to flow with the natural rhythm of the accordionist.

The classical portion of the CD presents something old and something new (at least new to me!). I found the arrangement of Benjamin Cimarosa's Concertino very lively and charming. This CD introduced to me the work of Shem-Tov Levi (Pillar of Fire) and Marc Lavry (Rhapsody Israelienne). The Israel Music Institute relates the following about Lavry:

Lavry was not a only prolific composer in all spheres of vocal and instrumental music but also a gifted conductor, who appeared with all the orchestras in the country. He may be counted upon the composers who laid the foundations of Israeli music and caused it to flower during the stirring times of the building of the land and the creation of the State. Marc Lavry nurtured Israeli creation consciously and with a sense of mission throughout his life until his final days.
The Rhapsody is performed with the N. D. R. Symphonic Orchestra of Hamburg under the direction of Sergio Commisona. This accordion concerto has a folk quality that moves from the pastoral to the dance. The final section has a rhythm and drive that evokes Gershwin.

In all, Yehuda Oppenheimer proves that he can perform magic with his accordion. He is able to take both folk themes and classical standards and breathe the breath of life into them.

For those interested, he plays all of these pieces on a stradella bass (standard) accordion--specifically an Excelsior 940. I would say that he taxes the stradella to the max!

In the CD notes Adina Yanai writes the following:

Yehuda Oppenheimer is known as the "Prophet of the Accordion" in Israel. He is a composer and a performing artist who turned the accordion, known at the time as a popular instrument only, into a wide range instrument with the capacity to create the various sounds of an orchestra, as performed on this CD-Music from the Baroque to the lively sound of the French Musette. Yehuda Oppenheimer was born in Germany in 1925. At the age of six he started to play the accordion which remained his great love ever since. He survived the war being hidden by a Dutch family in Holland. In 1946 he immigrated to Israel, graduated the Academy of Music -the violin being his main instrument. Yet as time passed he got totally involved with the accordion, as a performing artist in Israel and abroad, as a composer, and as a teacher who educated generations of famous players.

He published teaching materials in Israel as well as in Europe. Students of his won first prizes in international competitions. On other occasions he was invited to serve as a judge in world cup competitions in which his original composition "Chaconne" was chosen as a test piece. The well known Israeli composer Marc Lavry dedicated the "Rhapsody Israelienne" for accordion and orchestra, especially for Yehuda Oppenheimer, who performed it with the Radio Symphony Orchestra of Hamburg conducted by Sergio Commisiona, and with the Hayfa Symphony Orchestra. This delightful disc includes original music for accordion composed by Yehuda Oppenheimer, as well as master arrangements of classical and light music. It offers the listener a rare opportunity to enjoy the great talent of this artist and his "Magic Accordion".


Order Information:

Cost $15.00 USD
Order from:
Yehuda Oppenheimer
Zeev Haklai-street 10,96462
Jerusalem Israel.

NOTE: Many of Oppenheimer's compositions are available in print.

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