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The Accordian: from Jazz to Baroque

Photo courtesy of Madanmohan Samanta

Mirco Patarini was born in Spoleto (Italy) and in 1978, he began to study music at the CDMI (Italian Musical Didactic Centre). In 1980, he started to study the free bass accordion and in 1981 was judged first at the Italian pre-championship of Castelfidardo. He won numerous prizes and awards in Italy. In 1988, he began to collaborate with the firm “Farfisa-Bontempi” as musical adviser and here he started his evolution through the world of electronics music. At the same time, he began his collaboration with the firm SCANDALLI. As a soloist, he has performed worldwide. Recently from 2014, he is the Chairman of the Music Committee of CIA (Confédération Internationale des Accordéonistes), IMC-UNESCO, and member of the CIA Executive board. Recently Mirco Patarini performed at the Sandre Hall, CSM. Kolkata.

There are really many kind of instruments in the accordion “family” We can say that all instruments with free reeds and bellows are included in this family, also bandoneon (in all types) and concertinas. There is a really large quantity of “diatonic” instruments, or “bi-sonoric”: they are those small instruments that usually on the same key (button) play a note opening and another note closing the bellows. If we consider only the bigger instruments, we can divide in 2 types: one with Piano Keyboard, and one with button keyboard. The button one has various layouts: Italian French, Russian, Finnish. The left part, usually called “basses”, has very often a common layout: 6 rows of button; two are basses, and 4 are chords (major, minor, seventh and diminish); but in France, for example, they use a different layout, with 3 rows of basses and 3 rows of chords, and also sometimes in Netherlands, even if one of the bass runs is different than on the French one… In the “concert” instrument, played by concert artist or conservatory students, the left part has also a “converter” who can switch the chords rows (four) in single notes, to play classical or contemporary music. This system is called “free bass”, and unfortunately is not just one, but at least five. Then of course there are the various possibilities of combinations between the left and right layouts.

But this is nothing, if we enter in the matter of tunings. Various kind of “tremolo”, “Musette”, “swing”, with or without “cassotto”: there really is a world of possibilities, and we should write a big book, to try to include all combinations.

How versatile is the range of music that can be played?

By the various kind of instrument, is possible to play everything. From the music of baroque, classic and romantic periods to the contemporary music, from the folk of every country to the jazz. I heard accordion sound in unbelievable number of situations, even in Arabian music, because it is possible to tune accordions after an Arabica tuning scale.

How does the accordion differ in sound from an organ?

The accordion is not an organ: In the organ the sound is coming from pipes, when in the accordion is coming by free reed. The sound of accordion is more close to the sound of a harmonium. Another big difference is that the organ has usually a bellows activated by a person or by an electric Apparate, but in any case the air flow is constant, so also the volume of the music is always the same. In the accordion the bellows is activated by the player, and is used for the expression. We can say that is the same than the bowl for the strings instruments, or the human blow for a saxophone or a brass instrument.

Was any classical music written for the accordion?

If we intend for “classic music” the music written in the classic period (between the baroque and romantic), of course not. The first patent of an accordion appeared in Wien on 1829 (by Cyril Damien) and it was just a kind of box with a few chords. Of course is possible to play really a huge part of the classic (and baroque, and romantic) repertoire of the piano, the clavichord, the harpsichord, the organ, and also the chamber music.

When did composers start including the accordion in compositions?

Composers wrote for accordion since around 1850, we have entire books of original music. But in my opinion the accordion became the instrument that is today just around 1960-70, and also in that period just a few musician have been able to really play it. In any case there are examples of real good pieces written very well by real composers already in ’50.

Often thought of as a folk instrument when did you start seeing the accordion accepted as a full member of the orchestra?

If as “orchestra” we intend the typical symphony orchestra, the accordion is not a member, as the piano or organ as well. There are many pieces written for accordion and other instruments, including concerts for accordion and orchestra that are comparable to the operas for piano or any other soloist instrument. But I think you intend when the accordion has been finally accepted as an instrument at the same level than piano or violin or violoncello. I think this happened in different moments, depending of the Countries. In general in Europe just in the late ’70, or even ’80. But in the USA, for example, there is not yet any official course to get a degree, or a diploma at university level; and the same situation is in Australia or Nez Zealand. Or in South Korea, even if the instrument is quite popular. I can say that, for example, in the last 20 years the interest for the “concert” instrument grew very much, and in fact there are various universities and conservatoires who offer official courses till the final degree.

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