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CD Review: Werner Glutsch
Virtuose Musik auf dem Akkordeon

Werner Glutsch, accordion


Vaclav Trojan: Tarantella
Carl Czerny: Thema con Variazioni "La Ricordanza"
Franz Liszt: Valse Impromptu
Carl Maria von Weber: Rondo Brillante
Johann Strauss: Frühlingsstimmen-Walzer
Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy: Perpetuum Mobile
Carl Maria von Weber: Variationen uber das russiche Lied "Schone Minka"
Franz Liszt: Etude Nr. 5
Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy: Rondo Capriccioso
Londonow: Scherzo Toccata

total time: 63:38
released: 1992

label: Hohner Records HR 08.099 070
1992 Hohner Verlag GmbH
D - 7218 Trossingen (Wurttemberg)

Review by Joseph Natoli:

"Has it really been 26 years since I last heard Werner Glutsch?" is the question I kept asking myself as I listened to the 1992 CD from this tremendous artist entitled Virtuose Musik auf dem Akkordeon. Totally amazed at how 26 years could put such a polished sparkle on an already brilliant diamond, I recalled that when Werner Glutsch and I competed in the 1972 Coupe Mondiale together in Caracas, Venezuela, I was 18 and he was just 16 or 17. But his tall, lanky, boyish appearance certainly betrayed the intense maturity that was to emerge from his "akkordeon" during that week of competition. We had become friends because of our respect for each other's musicianship and individual passion for the instrument and as history would have it, we both ended up performing at the finalists' concert. We amicably parted ways in 1972 and most unfortunately never communicated again. However, one year later I wrote my Toccata No. 1, and Werner paid me the nicest compliment possible by using my Toccata as his original choice piece in the 1978 Coupe Mondiale competition, where he was 1st runner up. Persistence paid off however, as he eventually managed to win the coveted musical prize in 1980.

In spite of our lack of communication over the years, hearing this CD was like re-visiting and embracing an old childhood friend, delighting in the growth and maturity that had occurred since our last meeting. The years have been so consummately kind to Werner, turning the aforementioned brilliant diamond into a truly rare and precious jewel in the global virtuoso accordion community. The tracks on this recording are representative of the some of most profoundly beautiful playing I have ever heard and are indeed an important contribution to the accordion literature. I applaud the recording engineers on this project as well, since the accordion is such a difficult instrument to capture appropriately, especially when the recording is completely implemented in the digital domain as this one is. The ambiance and presence of the instrument are strikingly clear yet warm, and the digital effects are always appropriate to the performance of each work. Absolutely impeccable engineering!

Let me explore some of the aspects of Werner Glutsch's playing that pervade each and every track of this recording:

One piece of constructive criticism I have focuses on Werner's curious programming approach for this CD. In my opinion, it is equally important for performers to have a great sense of programming in order to complement their expert performance skills. On this CD, Werner's choices are unusual in that he decided on an almost completely Classical and Romantic literature program oddly balanced by the first track (a Neo-Romantic piece by Trojan) and the last track (a brilliant contemporary piece by Londonow). The addition of the Londonow piece especially (who by the way was the only composer not rating his full name in the CD liner notes), seemed out of place and added as an afterthought to fill time. Perhaps leaving the Londonow piece out completely, or adding a few more contemporary pieces in the middle of the CD would have created a more cohesive and balanced program. In fact one of the contemporary substitutions could have been in place of the Thema con Variazioni "La Ricordanza" selection by Carl Czerny which is a decidedly second rate piece and not really worthy of Werner's attention. Unfortunately, this was the longest track of the CD and although Werner's performance was beautiful throughout, I couldn't help but envision the analogy of an academy award-winning actor taking part in a "B grade" movie.

My only other piece of constructive criticism is to ask Werner to give us something simple yet beautiful on his next CD. Concert accordionists especially have a marked tendency to focus on an all-technical program in performances and/or recordings, and such was the case with this CD. As already mentioned, Werner's technique is amazing and a delight to hear. But he doesn't have to work so hard on each and every track. It would have been a welcome change to have one or two pieces that explore repose and calm, where the virtuosity would lie in sensitive interpretation.

There were some exciting high points of the CD definitely worth mentioning. For example the Tarantella by Trojan had some incredibly executed repeated triplet figures in the left hand that I have never heard anyone do effectively until now. The steep detente of the bass buttons as well as their very limited space make repeated notes very difficult apparently for anyone except Werner. The two Liszt pieces were mesmerizing. Liszt is so difficult to play convincingly on the accordion, but these performances would impress even the strictest of critics. Werner's transcription and execution of the Strauss waltz Frühlingsstimmen-Walzer was a most pleasant surprise such taste! His use of appropriate registrations for orchestral effect and gigantic leaps to simulate a second player helped me hear this piece from a totally new perspective, and again wondering how it was humanly possible to play some of the passages he executed. The Rondo Capriccioso by Mendelssohn was also a pleasant surprise. After having heard this piece over the years as a standard bass transcription, Werner's free bass transcription was markedly more interesting and lovely. Finally, the Scherzo Toccata by Londonow was intensely interesting and dramatic. I had never heard this work before, but Werner's performance was effortless and beautiful. There are so many more high points I would love to discuss, but in the interest of saving space and time, suffice it to say that every track has something new and unexpected in Werner's playing that will leave you wondering, "How is this possible with only two hands?"

Werner Glutsch is a mature virtuoso accordionist who, based on the merits of this CD, is one of our most important treasures. I only wish I knew the German language so that I could have understood a little more of the liner notes and each of his selections on the CD. However, in spite of the language barrier, he still speaks the language that I (and each of you) will understand most -- beautiful and artistic music. This CD is a must for anyone's collection and I sincerely hope there are more on the horizon from this wonderful artist!

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