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The Rise of the Mega-Accordion

Walker

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In the difficult days in which we live, a simple story can help pass the time. I hope you will allow me to meander down a well trodden lane, if only for a moment or two. The mists of time may somewhat obscure the details in my path, but it also heightens the sense of mystery, and I for one have always appreciated a legend or two.

I can see it now, in my mind's eye, the first mega-accordion. In the early days of World War II, the Dallape factory was concerning itself with heavenly matters, despite living in such troubled times. It was 1941 and, as a result of decades of research and knowledge, Giovanni Gola, and his boss Giuseppe Dallape, created the Liturgical accordion. It had 6 treble voices ranging from the deep 32 foot voicing, right up to a 2 & 2/3 foot voicing that soared above the piccolo. Incidentally, the accordion also had an additional row of pedal notes on the bass, for extra thunder. Yes, the tone was like a great organ – the Liturgical accordion had been built for the Cathedral as much as for the concert hall. Only 4 were built and Pope Pius XII received one as a gift. This instrument resulted in the entitlement for the accordion to be permitted in performing music of the Church service. This accordion pushed the limits and it was arguably the first mega-accordion.

As I stroll through my thoughts, I am next drawn to consider the Hohner Gola 459. It is a simple link - the same master builder of the Liturgical accordion created this gem of the Golden Age - a free bass instrument no less. The Gola was not a limited production model and there have been many fine accordions with various free bass systems over the years. Also, Giovanni Gola was in Hohner's employment from 1952 to around 1972, and they had the capacity to make many accordions. This does not detract from the instrument - it had a silken tone, and the violin register was close to ghostly. There were also the Silver Golas, and some of the earlier models had, shall we say, extra-special reeds. Ah, not all Gola's are the same! But I digress... I must move on from Gola, because there is something magical when a great accordion is also really and truly rare...

Perhaps, this would be a good time to mention a special name, the great master Yuri Volkovich. Was he good? He was on a different planet. Jupiter, to be precise. When the Russian virtuosi talk about Jupiter's bayans, Yuri Volkovich's name is never too far away. During his life Volkovich built 16 bayans. I believe his last instrument was finished in 1981 as a gift of friendship to maestro Veikko Ahvenainen. Apparently Volkovich knew it would be his last, and he passed away shortly after. Those musicians who own such an accordion beam with pride as they mention his name. Commentators fall over themselves to describe the tone of the Volkovich Jupiter.

You know, from what I can gather, the Volkovich Jupiter was also, in part, an inspiration for another mythical accordion. Massimo Pigini is a man of intellect, and he listened to Mogens Ellegaard, Friedrich Lips, Viatcheslav Semionov - all admirers of the Volkovich bayan. They wanted an Italian masterpiece with artisan reeds from Russia, and that's what Pigini gave them. In around 1986/7 Pigini started a limited production of 33 instruments, and their owner's reads like a 'Who's Who' of the button accordion... The Mythos was created.

So what came next? Who is the new Giovanni Gola? What's the latest mega-accordion? Don't ask me, sure I don't have the faintest clue! I just like telling stories... In fact I was hoping you all might know? Okay, I know there's no such thing as a mega-accordion, I may have just made up the title. But its given you something to read for a few minutes, and that was my intention all along.

For now, wishing you all a Happy Christmas and a great New Year.

Stewart​
 

Tom

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Great, thanks!!!! It's the "mythical" Proxima.
 

JerryPH

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So what came next? Who is the new Giovanni Gola? What's the latest mega-accordion? Don't ask me, sure I don't have the faintest clue! I just like telling stories... In fact I was hoping you all might know? Okay, I know there's no such thing as a mega-accordion, I may have just made up the title. But its given you something to read for a few minutes, and that was my intention all along.

For now, wishing you all a Happy Christmas and a great New Year.​
I really hate to be a downer, but I truly believe that the days of the Gola, Liturgica or next (I kind of like the term), mega-accordion are truly over, though I'd give much to be able to find my Gola 459. Just like people that shot photographic art on film, the acoustic accordion is waning away and digital is pushing in... but at the same time, digital advances in accordions are very limited. Yes there are hopeful sparks here and there, accordions are still being made (albeit at numbers under 1% of what they used to be made at), and I am very grateful for that.

As far as Proxima... people here know how I feel about that company. They screwed over the accordion world over once already (Bugari Evo anyone?), and now for some reason they are going to try and do it again. I'm no fan of them (not Proxima, I have respect for anyone that advances anything accordion related, acoustic or digital, but I have no trust in the people running it, because I feel they will do it again, and again, until people wise up).
 

Walker

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How interesting JerryPH to read your remarks - you are a man of good taste. I really hope a Gola 459 finds you in the fullness of time!

I believe that the very best accordion builders of today can still potentially produce future mega-accordions. However, this requires total dedication. The artisan must understand the best accordions of the past and they must take all the time required to design and build their creation - slowly and accurately. They must insist on the highest quality seasoned wood - only the best - even if it takes a long time to acquire it. The same idea with the reeds, no compromise - not business as usual. They must listen to what the greatest artists need. Then, and only then is greatness still possible. It will be expensive! Several times more expensive than what we are used to - and small production. Do they have the heart for it? Do we have the wallet for it?

Regarding the "mythical" Proxima. I thought Tom was using this term as a metaphor for the ultimate, rare accordion - Proxima being the nearest star to the Sun, and also a Latin word meaning: next or impending. I thought he was being poetic. Unfortunately, digital accordions do not enter my thoughts.

Stewart
 

debra

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I really hate to be a downer, but I truly believe that the days of the Gola, Liturgica or next (I kind of like the term), mega-accordion are truly over, though I'd give much to be able to find my Gola 459. ...
Having worked on a Gola 459 almost 10 years ago I fully understand your feeling towards that accordion. It is a completely different accordion than your Morino VI N. This is unlike later Gola accordions that people praise but when you look inside they are virtually identical to a Morino, minus the a mano reeds and the sordino. You could put a mano reeds in your Morino and that will bring you a step closer to a Gola, but not to a Gola 459 from the 1960s...
 

Walker

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I once saw a man on television who was a great musician, and he was moved with emotion when maestro Viatcheslav Semionov sat beside him, picked up his Pigini Mythos and played a few bars of what I believe may have been Kalina Krasnaya - also known as Guelder Rose. The man, Phil Cunningham, was totally overwhelmed by the experience. It was G. K. Chesterton who once described music as a 'shapeless and liquid element of beauty, in which a man may really float'. I remain optimistic that one day another mega-accordion will be created, because the mega-accordionists need them...

Here's part of an article by Steve Hendry of the Daily Record on 6th March 2011 about that meeting of musicians:

Phil was overcome making his new BBC2 show, The World Accordion To Phil.

It traces the origins of the instrument back to China.

The 51-year-old, who rose to fame with the band Silly Wizard, travelled all over the world for research. He was reduced to tears in Russia, when he met Viatcheslav Semionov, a world-renowned player of the Bayan, a "classical" version of the accordion.

He said: "There were so many moments that were really quite awe-insipiring but one particular moment which I can't get around was when I was sitting with Viatcheslav.

"He was supposed to give me a 16-bar piece of one of his own compositions but he shut his eyes and went offon one completely, playing the most beautiful thing I've ever heard in my life.

"It reduced me to a pile of rubble. I couldn't talk when it finished. I was in floods of tears. It was the most tragic piece I had ever heard, really beautiful, and I couldn't talk for 20 minutes.

"I just couldn't get around that a wee guy, sitting with an accordion I had played all my life, had made such a sound and affected me so deeply. I will never forget it."
 

Walker

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This Viatcheslav Semionov?

Ffingers, what an amazing video to find! Yes, you are 100% correct - he is marvellous.

I created a thread yesterday called When The 3 Elements Combine: Musician - Music - Instrument. This is a wonderful example.

I have listened from start to finish, and I particularly adore the 2nd movement (starts 3mins 17 seconds), it is inspired...

By the way: Pigini Mythos... Wow!
 

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