CD Review: Accordion Mon Amour
total time: 32:42
released: November 2005
review date: June 2007
Accordion Mon Amour
Review by: Peter Ayers
Although I have reviewed Yehuda Oppenheimer’s first CD “The Magic Accordion of Yehuda Oppenheimer” when it was issued a few years ago, both of these CDs are now available to buy via the Internet, on the “MusicforAccordion.com” Website, described as "the largest eSheet accordion music internet site in the world, with a huge range of accordion music titles of all different types of music." Their details can be viewed on page 18 of the CD section, which are listed under alphabetical order of performers. “Accordion Mon Amour” is a recent issue and consists of eleven compositions by Yehuda Oppenheimer.
As well as a composer and performer Yehuda Oppenheimer did much to further the interests of the accordion in Israel, where he immigrated to in 1946 after escaping from the Nazis and being hidden by a Dutch family since 1940. Besides teaching, he published teaching materials in Israel and Europe and he has been an adjudicator in international competitions. His composition Chaconne was chosen as the test piece for the 1967 CMA World Championship, won by Richard Galliano.
The CD recording is of excellent quality, very natural and a faithful representation of the acoustic sound of the accordion. Electronic sounds are completely absent. The playing is very expressive, with skilful use of the bellows to express the emotion in the music. As Yehuda studied the violin at the Israel Academy of Music this accounts for such sensitive treatment of melody.
The first item, Prayer, is a chorale tune with an organ-like sound, making use of that accordion register and also the contrasting tremolo register. However, the accordion gives a greater expression to the piece than could be achieved on the organ. The Nocturne, Longing, is very expressive and makes great use of the varied tonal changes of the instrument. A thrilling sound is achieved in the second section, where the harmonium register is used to play loudly large chords high up on the treble keyboard. Then the volume gradually dies down for the tune to be played by a single reed. Although the piece is written as a solo, the use of multi-tracking enhances this piece with its wider dynamic range and tone colours. Souvenir d’Amour is a medium tempo waltz that starts on the straight violin register and then changes to the musette register, followed by the harmonium register for a short time. It is a reflective waltz and for a short while even manages to play the tune on a single clarinet register. Tango is a typical example of why the accordion is such a suitable instrument for this dance. It starts with the harmonium register playing the main tune in a minor key, with each phrase beginning with three repeated notes, followed by a section that is a variation of this tune played with fast semiquaver runs. The trio is in the major key, played with the musette register, but with a counter melody accompanying it. This section also receives the variation treatment as well. The accordion is not only capable of playing such a piece as a solo, but this performance succeeds in doing so with great expression, range of tone and vitality. Young Love is a musette-type medium tempo waltz that makes skilful use of chromatic progressions both in the bass and in chord changes. The character is enhanced by the careful use of rubato. Perpetum Mobile is a minor key study reminiscent of a prelude by J S Bach, with its unceasing semiquavers played in the treble to a bass accompaniment. However, its subtlety is shown by a counter melody played on long high notes using the musette register, a successful combination denied to the great Baroque master. Sailing is a delightfully smooth flowing waltz with some staccato passages that give it a pleasant “bite”. The title piece Accordion Mon Amour is a gentle waltz, characterised by a descending chromatic bass pattern and, as the title suggests, is lovingly played with sensitivity. The tune is next played arpeggio style with variations, sometimes in triplets, and sometimes in a syncopated way, so that the tune-note, which is accented, does not always coincide with the beat. These variations are interspersed with a bass solo section accompanied by clear, bright treble chords. This is a short piece, but is very pleasant whilst it lasts. Rush Hour is a depiction of great numbers of people moving about at this busy time of day. It was written as a duet and it was my introduction to not only the wonderful music of Yehuda Oppenheimer, but also to the man himself. After playing this piece with my duet partner at a concert in Norwich in 1997, we were surprised to hear the announcer ask Mr Oppenheimer to stand up. Unknown to us, he had come to this country and, whilst in Norwich, had noticed in a music shop window that there was a concert given by an accordion ensemble. To add to his pleasure he found that they were playing one of his compositions. What an evening of surprises and also the beginning of a fruitful relationship. The piece is a fast waltz in the major key, containing an interesting counter melody and some sound effects of the hooting of car horns. Despite this, however, there is a certain amount of rubato in his playing, which avoids the piece becoming mechanistic.
The final two pieces are played by IBA (Israel Broadcasting Authority) Radio Orchestra. Picnic is a lively orchestral samba atmospherically played with delicacy and vigour and enhanced by Latin percussion. The tune is mainly played by strings, with flutes and then piano taking up the tune. The varied orchestral sounds add much colour to the piece. Omaggio a Bach was originally written as an accordion solo, but the piece imaginatively begins with saxophones, piano and percussion and gradually involving more instruments of the orchestra. Trumpets are only introduced at the third section, where they play a fanfare like tune. This is no mere imitation of Bach, but a tribute to his style of writing where he keeps the momentum of the movement going right to the very end.
This is a CD of original accordion music (two of which have been orchestrated), played with great skill and sensitivity by the composer. It shows that the accordion can not only produce exciting sounds, but also music that is tender, expressive and varied in its tonal range. We must be thankful for the Dutch family who in 1940 looked after the fugitive 14 year old Yehuda, to enable him to continue playing the instrument that, at the age of six became his “Accordion Mon Amour”.