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What do you think is the future for accordion in classical music?

vivdunstan

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I‘m pleased to see that the conversation has shifted somewhat to consider the accordion’s potential in playing soundtrack tunes and video game music. Many people enjoy and listen to soundtrack music at home while not actively following classical music. It can have a wide appeal. Often if I play the Amelie tunes friends comment how much they loved the accordion sound in the film. But I think the accordion can play other soundtrack music very well too.

I was also just thinking of TV dance programme Strictly Come Dancing, that adapts popular tunes to be suited for dancers to dance to competitively. Either the original programme in the UK or its many spin-offs worldwide. Accordions are regularly deployed in the UK programme’s live band for the tango based dances. But the music used isn’t always the more obvious traditional tango music. For example in the last series there was a marvellous tango dance version of Ed Sheeran’s recent pop tune Shivers. I’m preparing my own accordion arrangement of it now, and it’s a tune that really suits the squeezebox. And is a tune popular with many today.

P.S. I’m not averse to classical music myself. I played in an orchestra for a decade as a youngster, though violin not accordion! But I am aware that in many parts of the world it is more of a niche taste. And there is other music more widely popular.
 

Siegmund

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Earlier in the thread, the snobby attitudes of classical orchestras and conductors were touched on.

I think that for music purposely written for an unusual instrument, that attitude has relaxed. In the 20ish years that I played in orchestras, I accompanied a substantial number of concertos for unusual instruments, both not-usually-featured orchestra members (trombone, double bass), and for non-orchestra instruments (harmonica and marimba.) If you write music specifically for accordion and orchestra, if you can find a conductor who likes the music, he will program it.

We also indulged in some experiments where it was the orchestra, not our guest, who was taking on the nonstandard role: backing a pop singer or guitar band, or accompanying a silent film rather than letting a single organ do it.

What we didn't ever do was play "reimaginings" of well-known classical pieces. If you want to do "accordionist plays violin concertos" or "accordionist plays piano concertos" or "accordionist replaces singer in arias", you are probably going to have to assemble an group of your friends to accompany you.

I think the purists have a point that if the composer specified violin, not viola or oboe or flute or horn, for the solo part, you owe it to him to play what he write. (Up to Bach's time they didn't always specify.)
There is an another problem, in that if you approach an orchestra with an accordion-plays-violin-concerto proposal, you are stepping quite hard on the toes of two dozen violinists, many of whom are good enough to play that solo part, and one of whom would be playing it right now if you would just get off the [email protected]#$%^ stage and quit stealing the food out of his mouth. That's a very tough sell, getting the conductor to give up the opportunity to feature one of his own musicians, and getting the orchestra members 'on your side'.

At solo recitals, on the other hand, the transcriptions of orchestral pieces for 1 or 2 accordions will get a good reception. There's a long tradition of letting a soloist+pianist play reductions of music originally intended for soloist+orchestra.
I think this explains most of JerryPH's reception, where his solo transcription was warmly received but his proposal to sit in the orchestra wasn't.

Even in the so called snobbiest of genres, opera, the accordion is doing great things round here. In this performance the accordion replaced an entire orchestra! https://www.operanorth.co.uk/whats-on/whistle-stop-opera-the-marriage-of-figaro-2020/

Opera may well have the snobbiest audiences.
However:
1) Historically lots of innovations happened first in the theater and only later made it to the concert hall: things like adding clarinets and trombones to the orchestra, or using imitative or coloristic effects that were deemed "realistic" accompanying a scene but "crass" in absolute music
2) People have been mangling operas by changing the staging, changing the century the story is set in, changing the language the words are sung in, etc etc for a very long time.
3) There is extreme pressure to minimize the number of musicians used.

Musical theatre has always used tiny-by-classical-standards orchestras. Union rules used to require about 25 musicians in the pit on Broadway, but even then, composers never got to write for "woodwinds in twos": they'd be allowed 4 or 5 woodwind players, each of whom could play two or three different instruments, and change as needed for each number. Most of those union rules are gone now and a lot of new musicals are getting by with a dozen musicians.

Traveling classical companies do the same thing. I am slightly embarrassed to say I was once part of a 10-piece band (1 flute, 1 oboe, 2 clarinets, 1 euphonium, 2 violins, 1 viola, 1 cello, 1 bass) that took Mozart's Zauberflöte on the road. (It wasn't as bad as you'd think, except when the euphonium got too honky.)

An accordionist replacing the whole woodwind section, or the whole orchestra, accompanying a stage production sounds like a very plausible role. (Of course, in so doing, you are going to be putting 5 or 10 other musicians out of work, so you aren't going to make any friends by doing it.)
 

craigd

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Here is a youtube channel by Quartetto Gelato, a group that features accordion in classical music and other musical styles.

They are a really enjoyable group that showcases the accordion beautifully. I'm pretty sure that it was a stradella instrument on their first three albums, which, for probably unrelated reasons, were their most popular. They have had a couple of very talented and well trained accordionists since, playing free bass and bayan.
 

saundersbp

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With regard to BBC R3, I was looking at podcasts and there are many BBC Radio 3, any suggestion as to which of those might be appropriate?
Accordion music on R3 right now, if you tune in. Very in vogue..
 

petch

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Something I thought about the other day that might be hurting the accordion is that there is very little standardisation. I'm no strings player but I imagine most violins, cellos, etc are pretty much the same and any piece could be played on any instrument

Now compare that to the accordion... piano, button (with all the variant systems), stradella, chromatic free bass (mirrored and not), quint, moschino. The different sizes (which physically restrict how long you could sustain at a particular volume) and range of notes. Low notes that are permanently coupled with an octave above. 9 row vs convertor. All the register options, dry and wet tuning. A nightmare!

There are times on chromatic free bass you may use the stradella bass notes to reach a low note that wouldn't otherwise me reachable. On another system that might not be possible at all - sure all of the above is going to make it harder to compose for?
 

Ffingers

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Orrite!
I dunno what the future holds for classical (definition of choice on that one) music on an accordion, but on a Bayan there are exponents like this one:





- who drives tingles up and down my spine whenever I hear him play.
 

Alan Sharkis

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I do consider the accordion a serious musical instrument — in whatever genre it’s being played. To those “serious” string players who regard accordions as folk instruments, I remind you of the origins of your instruments. Perhaps to a lesser degree, the same might apply to brass, woodwind and percussion instruments. All of our instruments, all of our technics, all of our audiences have evolved. At present, there are some very talented accordionists playing in the classical field, either with or without orchestras. I expect this to continue. However, I realize that their numbers were never large, nor will those numbers grow in the future.
 

Walker

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I find the Russian type of accordion standardisation quite interesting. Their tradition recognises two instruments that are studied equally and separately:

Accordion = piano accordion.
Bayan = button accordion.

I really don't think reducing the systems down to one will ever happen, and neither do I want it to. However, proponents of standardisation might consider a ready-made hybrid between the two instruments above.

Kravtsov accordion played by Tim Fletcher:

 
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