Thursday, October 08, 2009

Vivaldi on squeeze box

Accordions were popular when I was young. I remember an early evening scene from about 1950 near the tennis courts of our village's municipal park. The event was a local talent show in which a couple of girls roughly junior high or high school age showed off their ability on the instrument. From the vantage point of my eight-year-old self, the instruments looked half their size and much too heavy for them. I think they played a couple of popular tunes of the time.

In the U.S. during that period, I've since learned, there were more accordion students than piano students. However it wouldn't be long before Bill Haley and the Comets released Rock Around the Clock and soon after that the accordion was something you saw on the Lawrence Welk Show, which grand-dad was watching. Wikipedia's article on accordion music genres gives more info on this subject.

Like my friends I grew to see the instrument as the ultimate of un-cool. And in this, as with so very much that was thoughtlessly dismissive in my young life, I eventually managed to reevaluate my early prejudice and no longer recoil from, actually welcome, the presence of an accordion in, say, the band playing at a wedding reception.

All this came to mind this morning when I came across a link to a Youtube video of a young man playing the "Presto" section of "Summer" from Vivaldi's Four Seasons.

I'm not giving that link since it was accompanied by an annoying commercial promotion. Instead, a bit of searching turned up this plain version, marred only by the bizarre title given it by the uploader:

{Presto section of Summer from The Four Seasons. The young man is apparently a Romanian named Aleksandr Hrustevič (Александр Хрустевич).}

Youtube turns out to have quite a few versions of this piece on that instrument. I don't suppose it will surprise that they're almost all from central and eastern Europe. Here is a smattering of the many:

{Same, played by Ventsi Kolev in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.}

Quite a few are mobile-phone videos of street performers, such as:

{Solo performance by a street player in Rosental, Muenchen, Germany.}

{Same, by three guys in a subway station in Sofia, Bulgaria.}

{Same, by an accordion quartet; performers and location not identified.}

And some are performances with other instruments like this:

{The whole movement, i.e., first movement, Allegro non molto of Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 8, RV 315, "L'estate" (Summer), in a 1998 performance, played on three balalaikas and an accordion (from Russia).}

{Squeeze Box, a song written in 1974 by Pete Townshend, performed by The Who; source: wikipedia}





{At Pike Place Market, Seattle - a modern-day accondionist; source:}

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