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CD Review: Orbiting Garden
Joseph Petric: accordion
Bob Becker & Ryan Scott: percussion
Doug Perry: viola


Christos Hatzis: Orbiting Garden
Alcides Lanza: Arghanum V
Micheline Roi: Fondly, Through the Madness Breathing
Tomas Dusatko: Diastema
Serge Arcuri: Bandoneon
Norman Symonds: El Duo

total time: 69:25
released: 2002
review date: Nov 2003

Canadian Music Centre
20 St. Joseph Street
Toronto, Ontario M4Y 1J9
phone: (514) 866-3477

Review by Steve Mobia

Canadian Joseph Petric is a unique performer to be sure. Making his living exclusively as a concert accordionist (with up to 70 concerts a year), he has inspired many composers to write for his talents. In 1980 he switched from the free bass piano accordion to one with a chromatic right hand button board; I assume this was to benefit from the chromatic's extended range.

This album, which received a JUNO nomination (Canada's highest recording award) is fascinating in that it features several pieces for solo accordion and pre recorded sound (usually a mixture of acoustic and electronic). Though all the compositions are by Canadian composers, all the tracks are different; ranging from the propulsive title track, through dissonant watery worlds to introspective melancholy to jazz inspired work. Some might miss an observable direction or trend in new music today, but this writer finds it refreshing that no one "school" of composition rules the roost. Sure we have some references to serial technique or minimalist pulse but these elements have been absorbed organically into new forms.

The first track on this album Orbiting Garden, makes this CD well worth having. A cascading piece of continuous invention and momentum, this is one wild and playful ride. Written by Christos Hatzis in 1991 before his absorption into "new age" simplicity, this remains a highly inventive post modern work hopping and skipping across great cultural divides. Themes are built from additive notes and micro-rhythmic motives and recirculate throughout, along with brief snatches of arabic strings, wordless chanting and a quote from Albinoni. The synchronization challenge for the live performer is immense. In spite of the variety of electronic sounds and influences the piece holds together and stands unique in the accordion repertoire (the original work was written for piano). I've not heard anything remotely like it.

Watery constructions assemble and dissolve in Alcides Lanza's Arghanum . Odd jazzy and classical riffs occasionally tap into some half remembered notion that constantly reassembles into something else as sounds spill in from all sides, electronic yet organic. The accordion "jump cuts" from one idea to another, each reappears at unexpected moments throughout.

Micheline Roi's Fondly Through the Madness Breathing is an atmospheric solo accordion work based on a descending minor second. A slow opening builds an anxious tension unleashed in a fast section where the material shoots between the treble and bass manuals of the accordion. Energy dissipates and the mysterious slow crescendos return. After a second scampering of the fast theme, a new expectancy is sensed, heralded by repeated fifths . Suddenly the tones rocket to the upper regions of hearing. A brief coda restates the descending motive with more upper octave resonance. The piece has a strong dramatic flare.

Another work based on a permutations of a simple thematic motive is Diastema by Tomas Dusatko. Written for accordion, percussion and viola, a 3 note motive is heard throughout bouncing from instrument to instrument in contrasting densities and speeds. The piece as a whole feels like a prelude.

Along with reeds and strings the accordion blends well with electronics possibly because its tone has a metallic square-wave quality. In Serge Arcuri's Bandoneon two basic kinds of accompanying electronic sounds are heard. One is sharp and hard-edged, extending outwards, the other is smooth round and has the effect of hollow molecular bubbles bouncing off each other. These sounds eventually create a hybrid with elements of both. Initially, the accordion climbs from its low range through a series of upward spurts. A playful syncopated episode ensues which has exact synchronization between Petric and the electronics. Elements recombine in exciting and surprising ways. Though the title suggests tango, it really is drawn from the French word for "tape" (bande).

The most jazz inspired piece of this disc El Duo offers some nice chordal passages and lively exchanges between accordion and marimba. One can follow the themes and rhythms without much trouble, but in comparison the piece lacks the inventiveness of the other tracks. Still it's a diverting listen, especially with Petric's expressive phrasing and the accomplished musicianship of the players.

The sound quality of this album is full bodied and the stereo effects stunning. The large separation between bass and treble sides of the accordion can be distracting when wearing headphones. Liner notes are informative. I highly recommend this disc for adventurous listeners.

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