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CD Review: Joseph Petric
Koprowski Concerto
Joseph Petric, accordion
Toronto Symphony Orchestra
Jukka-Pekka Saraste, conductor


Concerto for Flute and Orchestra
Concerto for Accordion and Orchestra
Concerto for Viola and Orchestra

All works by Peter Paul Koprowski

total time: 63:35
Released in 2001
Review date: June 2002

Label: CDC Records
PO Box 500, Station A
Toronto, Ontario
Canada M5W 1E6

Review by Henry Doktorski:

Without a doubt, Joseph Petric is one of the finest concert accordionists in the Americas, and perhaps he is the greatest (at least at this particular moment in history). Certainly there are a few superb accordionists on this side of the Atlantic who have recorded compact discs and performed concerti with symphony orchestras (the American Peter Soave comes to mind), and some who have in addition commissioned compositions from contemporary composers, such as the Canadian Joseph Macerollo.

Although these performers have made an indelible contribution to the history of accordion music, I don't believe any can match the prolific output of Joseph Petric. He has commissioned 100 new works and premiered over 200. As a soloist he has appeared at such international festivals as Bournemouth, Huddersfield, Queen's Festival Belfast, and major venues such as the Kennedy Center, the Purcell Room, and Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall. Petric gives more than 70 concerts a year in solo recital, new music concerts, and chamber music and concerto performances.

I think you will agree with me: quite impressive.

This CD is another bright feather in Petric's cap: a concerto commissioned by Petric and written by one of Canada's best-known composers, Peter Paul Koprowski, who was born in Poland and studied with Nadia Boulanger, among others.

Koprowski's concerto, written in 1993, consists of three movements: Fest, Cantilena, and Danza. The concerto is a 19-minute dialogue between accordion and orchestra, and at times, especially during cadenzas, between the right and left-hand manuals of the accordion itself.

Fest, as indicated by the title, is a grand and boisterous opening movement which begins with a short trumpet motive. The accordion jumps in and entwines with the orchestra in an antiphonal display of rapidly moving scale passages, encompassing various keys, which showcases Petric's virtuosity. The second movement, Cantilena, provides a necessary contrast in its lyrical melodies and piano dynamics. Koprowski gives the accordion a beautiful two-voice cadenza written in a Neo-Baroque style. The movement is framed by two glissandi on the wind chimes.

The final movement, Danza, is a well-developed waltz which pays homage to the folk origin of the accordion, as well as to the Slavic roots that he and Petric have in common. I was impressed not only by Petric's capable command of his instrument, but by the craft of Koprowki's compositional abilities. The accordion is well-balanced with the orchestra, and employs none of the "special effects" which contemporary composers seem to like to employ in writing for the instrument, such as grunts, wheezes and air valve snuffles. Here, the accordion simply functions as an integral part of the whole.

The CD booklet notes are written in English and French.


Subject: Re: Koprowski concerto
Date: Tue, 04 Jun 2002

Hi Henry

Its a great work isn't it? Glad you enjoyed it and thank you for the positive words.

I wanted to send you some reviews that define the work in a bigger compositional picture rather than just an accordion piece. There is really interesting work going on with regard to an intertextual context for the accordion right now. This concerto is one of the signal works in that regard. It is also the first full orchestral accordion concerto on CD since Nordheim's Spur was recorded in the mid 80s. When I get a moment, I'll send you some details. Use them as you will. Best

Joseph Petric

Subject: Re: Koprowski concerto
Date: Tue, 04 Jun 2002

Hello again, Henry

Some thoughts on the Koprowski concerto.

First, you can visit my website at
and click onto CDs under Koprowski. You'll see some of the reviews that have come out, American Record Guide being one of them.

As a compositional background to the work, this concerto is not the first but the largest in dimension of any concertos for accordion that have been written based on a contextual intertextuality. The work draws on unlimited sources, but is never cliched, predictable, with a very unique temperament. There was a review in the Halifax Herald earlier this year which really got it. I think it is important to signal where the concerto stands in a big picture assessment of musical trends.

"...Koprowski demonstrates an extraordinary level of originality and musical eloquence in the concerto...It has its own rules, its own landscape, and musical temperament....The musical imagery is pictorial without calling any particualr picture to mind: fascinatingly original - which means you can't predict what is going to happen next - compelling, and followed through with a logic that forces its inevitability upon the listener, even though the language may sound exotic to some.

Koprowski's vocabulary is modern, full of rich dissonances and transparent tonal mordancy, rhythmically taut and energetic, yet neither the vocabulary of the serialist or the graphic designer of musical textures and densities.

The Toronto Symphony under Jukka Pekka Saraste...plays with a stunningly beautiful plasticity, pristine blend and balance and eloquently subtle tonal shading...

Stephen Pederson
Halifax Herald Feb 24 2002

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