The Free-Reed Review
Critiques of Compact Discs, Books and Music Scores

CD Review: Peter Soave & the Emerald Sinfonietta
A Salute to 20th-Century American Composers


Review by Henry Doktorski:

To date, The Classical Free-Reed, Inc. has received some 250 CDs which have been reviewed in the pages of The Free-Reed Review. Among hundreds, only a handful of CDs included works for accordion and orchestra, such as:

  • Veikko Ahvenainen performing his own Autumn Suite and Karelian Pictures with the Kouvolan City Orchestra
  • Mogens Ellegaard performing Ole Schmidt's Symphonic Fantasy and Allegro with the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra
  • Geir Draugsvoll performing Ivar Frounberg's Other Echoes Inhabit the Garden with the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra
  • Joseph Macerollo performing Charles Camilleri's Concerto for Accordion and Strings with The Composer's Orchestra
  • Friedrich Lips performing S. Berinski's Symphony No. 3 for bayan and orchestra (with unamed orchestra)
  • Matti Rantanen performing Erkki Jokinen's Concerto for Accordion and Chamber Orchestra with the Avanti Chamber Orchestra
  • Morton Rossen performing B.K. Przybylski's Concerto Classico with the Orchester des Theaters Zwickau
  • Yuri Kazakov performing Nicholai Chaikin's Concerto for Bayan and Orchestra No. 1 with the Moscow Symphony Orchestra
  • Ivano Battiston, Stefan Hussong and Elsbeth Moser performing Sofia Gubaidulina's Seven Words with various orchestras, etc.

  • There are embarrassingly few recordings of compositions by American composers -- perhaps due to the widespread prejudice against the instrument in the United States by classical music lovers. However, there are a few fine recordings: Diane Schmidt performing Alan Hovhaness' Rubaiyat with the Seattle Symphony and Robert Davine performing Carmelo Pino's Concertino with the Lamont Chamber Players. (I cannot include in the list my own recording of George Gershwin's Rhapsody In Blue with the Duquesne Chamber Players as it is a transcription, not an original work.)

    I have waited a long time to hear an accordion concerto by an American composer on CD. Now that I think about it, (although I have heard several concertos for accordion and orchestra) I don't remember ever hearing in concert a concerto for accordion with orchestra by an American composer.

    Granted, the repertoire is limited, but there are a few excellent works. Roy Harris wrote Theme and Variations for accordion and orchestra, Henry Cowell wrote Concerto Brevis for Accordion and Orchestra , Paul Pisk wrote Adagio and Rondo Concertante for two accordions and orchestra. Paul Creston and Alan Hovhaness wrote concertos, Anthony Galla-Rini wrote two concertos and Pietro Deiro wrote three. I believe these compositions have merit and deserve to be recorded.

    Ah . . . But it is not so simple. Producing a CD is expensive, and hiring an orchestra can cost tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Certainly the cost is prohibitive, but not impossible to surmount, as can be ascertained by the release of the Coppola concerto by the Detroit-based Emerald Sinfonietta.

    Although self-produced, this CD lacks nothing in quality: it is in fact superb. The concept of an album saluting American composers is excellent, and the orchestra tantalizes our ears with beautiful (and never-before-recorded) performances of works by Barber, Corigliano, Gould and a lesser-known but fine composer named Ingolf Dahl.

    But the climax of the CD comes with the crashing cymbals and blasting brass of the introduction to the Coppola Accordion Concerto. Before hearing this recording I was ignorantly unaware that Carmine Coppola (1910-1991) had even written for accordion. I knew he was a respected film composer who scored the music for Godfather II, Godfather III, The Black Stallion and Apocalypse Now, but this was news to me.

    And the concerto is delightful; a substantial three-movement twenty-three-minute work with luscious melodies, attractive harmonies and exciting orchestrations. I believe it has been too long neglected.

    Certainly I must not neglect the performer of this work, American accordionist and bandoneonist Peter Soave, who by his consummate artistry and personality helped make this first recording by the Emerald Sinfonietta an artistic triumph. Oh yes! I Almost forgot to mention the bonus track (not by an American composer), Astor Piazzolla's romantic Decarissima, with truly fine bandoneon playing by Peter. I am unabashedly impressed by his ambidextrous abilities.

    Despite the incompetency of the person who supposedly proofread the CD booklet notes (the word accordion is misspelled as accordian on the CD cover!), I predict this CD will become a coveted treasure in the audio libraries of all classical accordion lovers.

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