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Why I Think Unaccompanied Solo Violin Music Is Unsuitable For The Conc


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#37 jggunn

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Posted 05 November 2009 - 10:57 PM

It seems to me that one thing that has been absent from this discussion is exactly what (English) concertina is in question. What sounds well on my medium quality Lachenal (which is very mellow) sounds very different on my stringent Aeola or my somewhat muted (on high notes) Crabb. Like wine, different concertinas have different flavors which are not necessarily natural to wines as a whole. So some concertinas can sound much like a violin, cello, flute, etc.

#38 m3838

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Posted 06 November 2009 - 01:23 AM

So some concertinas can sound much like a violin, cello, flute, etc.



Oh, please! A concertina sounding like a violin is probably violin, not a concertina.
With very developed imagination coupled with lack of knowledge of what a saxophone is, we can compare mellow concertina to a sax, and even not all notes, but only a few in the middle range. But that's about all.

#39 tzirtzi

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Posted 06 November 2009 - 03:23 AM

It seems to me that the point about what concertina is being played is very relevant. I play some classical music arranged for concertina which is all in thirds - it sounds.. well, not horrible, but less than brilliant on my Jacky, but very nice on a quieter, concertina-reeded instrument. The same can be true of music arranged for other instruments - when playing guitar music or other music that has quite distinct bass and treble lines, you need to be playing an instrument without too loud a bass; if you're going to play classical solo violin music, or even more so flute music, which often makes extensive use of the higher range of a treble EC, you need to play an instrument with a nice, mellow-toned high range that isn't too piercing (again, the Jacky doesn't suit this kind of music very well). Concertina tone varies a lot both between instruments, types of instrument, and within the playing of a single instrument - which is only to be expected from such a complex, mechanical instrument with so many parts which can be made differently.

I find solo violin music suitable for some of my own playing - my playing is nothing like good enough to make me think I could judge what the eventual limitations of the instrument are going to be, but I can get pleasure and produce (what seems to me to be) a pleasing and feeling sound with this sort of music. Perhaps it is the case that this sort of music is more suited to being played on the violin, but as people have already said, this woulnd't be suprising. Given the limited supply of music composed specifically for the concertina that exists, I suggest we stay satisfied with what we've got.. :P

#40 jggunn

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Posted 06 November 2009 - 01:14 PM

Please, I said "much like" -- not identical. I think it would be very difficult for an average listener to distinguish between a single high note with slight bellows vibrato on a concertina and a similar note on a medium quality violin. Also as I noted it is not only that certain concertinas have a particular flavor (again, maybe like cherry in wines that have no cherries)but, like violins, they sound different in different keys. Playing a concertina in four flats does not sound like playing it in D. Finally, are you talking about violin specifically or fiddle music as well?

#41 Dirge

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Posted 06 November 2009 - 02:07 PM

My point was about the way the music is played rather than the sound of the instrument. Harpsichords don't sound much like concertinas, but their strengths and weaknesses as instruments have much more in common with a concertina than a violin or a flute, say, so I was suggesting that Baroque keyboard music is more likely to be playable convincingly than the Bach violin partitas etc that others trot out occasionally. They have often been well played but are doomed to ultimate musical failure because of all that extra control a violin has over note production.

The topic came about as a result of someone commenting elsewhere that I might like to look at violin etc music; I thought I'd share my reasons for my sniffy attitude. All right, it's easier for a duet, but I don't see why the principle shouldn't be worth thinking about. I was speaking to someone who remembered the ICA competitions and she said that if you shut your eyes you couldn't tell the difference between duets and Englishes in the complex pieces they played. Just because lots of English players stick to melody lines these days doesn't mean you can't, or you needn't try.

#42 m3838

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Posted 06 November 2009 - 03:18 PM

<br>Please, I said "much like" -- not identical. I think it would be very difficult for an average listener to distinguish between a single high note with slight bellows vibrato on a concertina and a similar note on a medium quality violin. Also as I noted it is not only that certain concertinas have a particular flavor (again, maybe like cherry in wines that have no cherries)but, like violins, they sound different in different keys. Playing a concertina in four flats does not sound like playing it in D. Finally, are you talking about violin specifically or fiddle music as well?<br>

<br><br>I totally get your point, and agree with Tzirtzi. I just suggest we express ourselves more clearly and choose words.

<div>A concertina will not sound "much like" a violin, because a violin's specialty, that comes naturally, is it's flexible, bendable voice with lots of overtones. Violin tuning is potentially perfect in all keys and variations.</div><div>A concertina has fixed pitch, that is not stable both throughout it's scale snd dynamic ranges. Concertina doesn't have as many overtones (if I'm not mistaken), making its voice less rich and more "muted" (big financial mistake from today's makers to emulate the voice of early instruments - my opinion).&nbsp;</div><div>With fixed uniformed tuning playing in four flats should sound exactly like in four sharps, that's the whole idea. A concertina is handicapped in this area, because it's tone in upper register differs from lower. Low reeds are slow while high are squeaky. A violin doesn't have this limitation. Violin is more stable, predictable, flexible and artistically more reliable than concertina.&nbsp;</div><div>A concertina, to me, is small portable accordion-like instrument. It sure has funny sound, but looks and feels fine, easy to pick up and transport. Anglo has no strong advantage over small diatonic accordion, except in hands of very skilled player, using all of it's chromatic potential, of which I haven't seen any. English, as fully chromatic small instrument, is very functional. Duets, to me, lose to any "two handed " instruments on all fronts, except the size. But there are chromatic free bass accordions and small bandoneons, that beat Duets hands down by sound quality, general acception and cultural relevance.&nbsp;</div><div>I picked up concertina because it was obscured, small and easy to read with. If it was as accepted as violin, I wouldn't be here. But judging by the developments of design, it will never gain popularity, thank goodness. The other side of this medal is the relatively lower standard of musicianship, regardless of pure abstract potential of the instrument.&nbsp;Aside from Bandoneons, composers will never write for the concertina</div><div>Even the best players will never approach the level of standard piano/violin/accordion/drum level.</div><div>Just accept it or prove me wrong with dazzling examples.</div><div><br></div>

#43 jggunn

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Posted 06 November 2009 - 10:28 PM

One can never prove dogmatists wrong -- even with dazzling examples. If I had the ability to play the violin really well, I probably would not play the concertina, and my point was not that the concertina is a substitute for the violin. But it is close to silly to say that a virtuoso on the concertina such as Wim Wakker or Allan Atlas or Alastair Anderson cannot reach a level comparable to the average player of other instruments. I don't think the issue in this discussion was about what is ultimately the best instrument. I hate to argue with Dirge who has offered some very informative posts, but I think some ambiguity was present from the beginning. If we mean by violin music, music that was written expressly for the violin, then surely the concertina cannot be considered a particularly good bet -- or any other instrument. My point was simply that the concertina can play very well a wide range of music often played by a violin, and that it has possibilities of overlap and similarity. Same range, double stops, tonic similarities, etc. If we take a violin solo such as that in Shostakovich's Romance from Gadly, it, I think, sounds great on the English concertina, and there are chordal possibilities on the concertina that violins do not enjoy. And if we take a hornpipe such as the Mathematician, I think the concertina stands up well against fiddle renditions. But, again, I don't think we are trying to argue about what is the best of all instruments.

#44 m3838

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Posted 07 November 2009 - 03:33 AM

You keep on ignoring hard facts, and that's a good thing for you. You may live your happy concertina playing life.&nbsp;<div>I generally am more comfortable around people who realize where they stand and who and what they are. Glassy eyed happy campers have a chance of making fools of themselves without noticing it.</div><div>But to each it's own and you go ahead thinking that Wim Wakker is right there with Yasha Heyfetz. I guess some people simply can't hear the difference and that's fine with me.</div><div>There is only one area where concertina found home - Irish folk music. Musicians steadily show good technique and taste etc. But as I noted earlier, when they play with piano, and piano player gets a chance for a solo - they usually play circles around concertina. Same goes for violin. It's a little disheartening, but what can one do?</div><div>What concertina can create is the atmosphere of cheerfulness. It's a combination of silliness, simplicity and rhythm. Goes better with simple folk tune, where the Anglo does better job. Accordion usually creates more of this calamity, but it's bigger and heavier. This fact makes concertina more readily available - not a small treat!</div><div>I generally agree with you, but you sound like you have that urge to prove your concertina-worthiness. Let's just enjoy playing this little toy of ours, and not pretend we are up to grab some stars with it.</div><div>But when you seriously (it seems) state that concertina, by some artificial specs, sounds any close to violin, with the wishful thinking that this very fact elevates concertina higher - it's plain silly. Such comparisons can only degrade it and are to be avoided.</div><div><br></div>

#45 chiton1

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Posted 07 November 2009 - 04:30 PM

Shall we make a list of all instruments in the world, than compare their technical abilities, their subjective qualities as well, and see what instrument comes out best - perhaps the Marimba or the Mbira :lol:
I love the specific sound of the concertina, otherwise I wouldn't play it. And spent all that money buying them - I could buy an enormous accordeon with 3400 bass buttons for the money I spent on my concertinas - but then I really dislike the sound of most accordeons so I stick to my concertinas (Bandoneon however I love, but you can't do everything in life, I already play the flute and the bombard).
Yes it is a simple instrument (although not that simple to play it well!) and I play simple music on it (Irish). I do not have the time and the wish to play intricate classic repertoire (but I love to hear them). And playing the same melodic lines as a fiddle on a concertina (in Irish music) is certainly possible and not of lesser quality. Piano solo in Irish music? Sorry but I still have to hear the first one that will give me anything that looks like positive emotion. The pianist playing with Niall Vallely is not doing bad, but take out Niall's concertina and nothing remains....
Ah come on, lets play some concertina!

#46 njurkowski

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Posted 07 November 2009 - 05:51 PM

Boy, it's been a while since I posted here, but the topic is great, and Michael is as provocative as ever :D

I think that fundamentally, violin music sounds better on violin because it was composed for the violin. Every instrument has its own nuances, and what's idiomatic on one instrument isn't idiomatic on another. Because the violin is established in its place in the western music tradition means that composers learn how to write for it, and can make it sound great. The concertina. for whatever reason (not going to get into that can of worms) was not. Another instrument's music will not be idiomatic on the concertina, because of all of the reasons that have been hashed out already. It has nothing to do with what is a "superior instrument" (whatever that may mean), as others have said.

The complication is that superficially, the concertina appears to be a good match for the violin. The English has roughly the same range (by design), and a sound that, while different from a string, is not completely dissimilar. (It's been awhile since I did Fourier analyses of different instruments, but certainly both strings and free reeds have overtones - just different sets of overtones. I think the sound profile of a free-reed is more similar to that of a string than it is to a sine-wave, which has no overtones...I could be wrong). Unfortunately, the mechanics of the instrument are (as once again, has been noted) very different, which means that pieces don't often transfer as well as they could.

And though I agree with Michael that the concertina hasn't had a Jascha Heifetz-type figure, at least in a long while, I don't think that means that there is no possibility of one.

And I love Danny's link.

#47 Dirge

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Posted 07 November 2009 - 08:38 PM

Hallo Nick, nice to see you're still in the fold!

#48 njurkowski

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Posted 08 November 2009 - 03:43 AM

Hallo Nick, nice to see you're still in the fold!


Ooof...I've meant to get back to posting here. The last year has been busy with finishing a thesis, applying to PhD programs and a subsequently moving across country to California...all settled now, finally.

I was flipping through the infamous Berlioz entry in his orchestration treatise, and he really does hit the nail on the head: "Finally, this instrument - like the guitar - requires that the composer who wants to use it successfully should know its mechanism thoroughly and be able to play it more or less adequately."

If it isn't written to be played on the concertina, it is probably going to be somewhat unsatisfactory (at least for the classical tradition). Of course, familiarity with the instrument doesn't equal producing great music for it...

Edited by njurkowski, 08 November 2009 - 03:47 AM.


#49 jggunn

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Posted 08 November 2009 - 01:13 PM

You are correct in saying that I have an urge to defend the worthiness of the concertina, just as you have some strange urge to depreciate it compared with other instruments. I probably agree to a large extent that the violin is in some ways a quintessential instrument, but this game of trying to make a case that a top line concertina player is never the equal of a top player of another instrument is far too subjective to make any really reasoned discussion possible. I have heard both Atlas and Wakker in concert, and they were simply great. I will shortly attend a concert by Jenny Scheinman on the violin, and I certainly will not go home asking myself the kinds of questions you are posing about what is the best instrument and which instrument produces the finest musicians. What can be compared is violins and their players, just as one can compare concertinas and their players. It is certainly interesting to compare violins with concertinas on various terms, but there are real limits to the significance of seeking a transcendental standard -- because there is none.

#50 conzertino

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Posted 14 November 2009 - 10:31 AM

There are indeed only few concertina-players who invest the same amount of time in practising as violin-players often do. However they exist: Juliette Daum plays both Bach's fuge and chaconne for solo violin on the English concertina - and does so with a lot of skill and feeling... Its different, but I love it!

By the way, she plays an adaption for the guitar by Segovia, which adds even more notes, especially low ones, which sound great on her tenor or bass-baritone.

Edited by conzertino, 14 November 2009 - 10:36 AM.


#51 m3838

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Posted 15 November 2009 - 03:20 AM

There are indeed only few concertina-players who invest the same amount of time in practising as violin-players often do. However they exist: Juliette Daum plays both Bach's fuge and chaconne for solo violin on the English concertina - and does so with a lot of skill and feeling... Its different, but I love it!

By the way, she plays an adaption for the guitar by Segovia, which adds even more notes, especially low ones, which sound great on her tenor or bass-baritone.


I generally dislike the notion of the time put into practice. Like I haven't seen 8 year old soloing with Philharmony orchestra. Don' t fool yourself, years of practice will never do anything if you have no talent, and those with talent are not drawn to English concertina much. At least not yet. For the reasons described above and for the rational of leading the mainstream. Juliette is very good player, though her style is a bit heavy for me.
But here again, we are comparing apples to oranges. Juliette, been probably one of the best EC player in the World is no match to average skillful violin graduate.
To my opinion. Nice try though.

#52 Anglo-Irishman

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Posted 17 November 2009 - 05:20 AM

2 things got me thinking about this: we've had a couple of posts by English players of very competent attempts at Bach solo violin pieces and they left me underwhelmed; I felt that, although they were nicely done, the music didn't really come to life. Maybe it is possible to do this, but why, I thought, start with music that doesn't take advantage of the strengths of the instrument and relies heavily on a property whose lack is notable in a squeezebox? On a hiding to nothing, surely?

Dirge,
Why were you underwhelmed? Was it because of the instrument, or because of the player? I've been underwhelmed by pianists, organists, violinists, even by whole symphony orchestras, playing the works of the great composers. If the player's personal qualities were not part of the equation, there would be no star performers.

Widening the view to squeezeboxes in general: Sergei, a Russian friend of mine plays the bayan - for me, the most magnificent squeezebox of all! He's an academically trained professional musician (i.e. he practises a lot!) and an excellent performer, so his playing is on a level with that of a concert violinist or pianist. And he plays a "convertible" bayan on which the bass buttons can be switched to single notes, i.e. free bass. He plays Bach organ toccatas note for note, and with perfect phrasing. This definitely overwhelms rather than underwhelms me! Sergei is of the opinion that, had Bach known the bayan, he would have composed for it, because it has all that an organ has (except the size and expense, but including the typical organ stops like Mixture), and dynamics on top of that.
Sergei plays a lot of Baroque keyboard music, including harpsichird works, very convincingly.

But he steers clear of Romantic piano music. Why? Because music that is composed for the modern piano utilises a feature that neither organ nor harpsichord have: the sustain pedal. On organ and harpsichord, the note sounds only as long as you keep the key pressed, as on a free-reed instrument. On the piano, you can sustain a note or chord with the pedal, do that it underlays the notes that you strike subsequently. (Example: keeping the pedal pressed, strike the notes of a chord one after the other in all octaves from bass to treble.) You just don't have enough fingers to do do that on any other keyboard instrument or free-reeder!)

What I learn from all this is that
1) There are cases in which music composed for one instrument can be played (perhaps with adaptations) on another, but not indiscriminately. Harpsichord music can be played on the piano (see Glenn Gould's recordings of Bach), but not vice versa (you can play a piano without using the pedal, but you haven't even got a pedal on a harpsichord). What has the original instrument got that the concertina hasn't? Is this utilised in the piece in question? If so, can it be substituted by a concertina techniqe?

2) Some instruments happen to belong to the canon of "classical" instruments, and are regarded as the means of expression for the musical elite, and taught rigorously on a wide basis, so they attract the really gifted young musicians and offer them the stimulus of role models and peer competition. In Russia, the bayan is in this category, along with the violin and piano - in western Europe, the accordion is not, and the concertina certainly isn't! This is why the chance of finding a really masterfully played concertina (any system) is much less than finding a masterful violin or bayan performance. (I'm not saying that the concertina cannot be played masterfully - just that the opportunities to hear it played masterfully are numerically low.)

Just a few thoughts!

Cheers,
John

#53 Anglo-Irishman

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Posted 17 November 2009 - 05:39 AM

... there are real limits to the significance of seeking a transcendental standard -- because there is none.

jggunn,
It's nice when I can say, after attending a concert or listening to a CD, "That was lovely violin music," or "...lovely piano music," or "...lovely concertina music."

But sometimes, even in the middle of a performance, I just forget what instrument it is and think, "What lovely music!" That's my "transcendental standard."

Cheers,
John

#54 J Werner

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Posted 18 November 2009 - 06:56 PM

This is an interesting argument! I just got my first concertina a month ago (anglo), and I got it because I like how they sound. I think the best music to play on the concertina is music that you'd like to hear played by a concertina.



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