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#1 Rod

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 03:21 AM

These Discussion Forums contain a wealth of valuable and fascinating detail and much intelligent exchange of opinion but I search in vain for any examples of truly competent virtuoso performance. The majority of what I hear only serves to perpetuate the generally held, but erroneous perception that the Concertina is not in fact a 'serious' musical instrument.

Does anyone agree and does it really matter so long as we are all happy ?

#2 Chris Timson

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 03:31 AM

For viruoso performance in the classical realm look no further than Douglas Rogers. In English tradition I think of John Kirkpatrick, Alistair Anderson and Dave Townsend. I'm not an expert on Irish music, but those who are will list virtuosi until you cry for mercy, I'm sure.

With regards to this forum, it is inhabited mostly by players, and as with any instrument there is something of a bell curve with just a few virtuosi, but the vast majority of players somewhere below that. If there are not enough virtuosi on here for you, well, we're no different from anyone else in that regard.

Chris

Edited by Chris Timson, 09 July 2008 - 03:32 AM.


#3 Alan Day

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 03:37 AM

I agree with Chris this site is for discussion,advice,helping beginners,exchanging music,Historical Information and Instrument repair.
There are some wonderful virtuoso performances on the concertina available on CD.
I think you are being a bit cheeky with your statement.
Al

#4 Richard Morse

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 08:23 AM

I search in vain for any examples of truly competent virtuoso performance.

My top non-Irish player vote goes to David Townsend. Check out sample 1 and sample 2.

This is probably the type of music many people would consider when speaking/considering virtuosoness. Unfortunately those who have no appreciation/understanding for Irish music - often write off the efforts of Noel Hill or MicheŠl ” Raghallaigh or (insert your favorite players here) as "folkies" and unworthy of any "serious" consideration.

But there are many more of "them" than "us", and when it comes down to it, my observation is - that few of "us" play with much attention to phrasing and intonation, but rather play "straight out". A difference in performance excellence criteria?

Until we have some widely available recordings proffering concertina excellence on the order of James Galway's crossover between the traditional and classical realms I'm afraid the concertina will be relegated to a lowly status. And hopefully with such recordings/persons the interest will be generated to result in studies/courses in concertina as so many other instruments have available.

-- Rich --

#5 Irene S.

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 08:36 AM

Having read the original post, I suppose my response as a newbie to the Duet would have to be .. .define "serious" musical instrument. Surely any instrument is serious - it depends on the player's attitude and application to it. Many might say that the Jews Harp wasn't a serious instrument but just something for casual fun .... however, you only have to listen to Michael Wright playing one, or his brother or neice .... in their hands its a totally different instrument, and the end results can be either sublime or humorous.

#6 Theo

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 09:00 AM

... I search in vain for any examples of truly competent virtuoso performance...


Surely "virtuoso" implies a standard of playing way beyond the merely competent.

To my mind a competent player is one who can play accurately with use of phrasing, pulse and rhythm appropriate to the type of music. A virtuoso on the other hand is one who not only has technical mastery of the instrument, but can make music that communicates with the audience at the deepest level.

#7 Larry Stout

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 09:09 AM

For viruoso performance in the classical realm look no further than Douglas Rogers. In English tradition I think of John Kirkpatrick, Alistair Anderson and Dave Townsend. I'm not an expert on Irish music, but those who are will list virtuosi until you cry for mercy, I'm sure.

Chris


Having recently heard Allan Atlas in concert I'd add him to the list of virtuosi. His was a performance of Victorian parlor music--yet a different genre than those listed above. If the chance comes up, go hear him.

#8 Frank Edgley

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 09:26 AM

Why in the world would you expect to find virtuoso performances on a discussion forum??? Most things posted here, in the way of performance, would most likely be in the nature of competent hobbyists, or someone trying to illustrate a musical point, not virtuoso perfarmances. Virtuoso performers could be found quite easily enough if you would care to search out the comparitively rare, but ever increasing number of CDs available from various importers like the Buttonbox. It does not seem as if you have done this, or if you have, and still feel this way, perhaps you engender the same attitudes that an acquaintance of mine (a classical player) displayed. When I told him that my wife has just purchased an Irish harp he said, "Does it have red and blue strings like a "real" harp?" The ironic thing about his arrogant attitude was that he was not a very good player, himself. Such a statement may tell a lot about the one saying it.

#9 RP3

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 10:20 AM

I think all the responses have been very well restrained and on-point, but I am inclined to believe that the question was intended to "wind us up"! If not, accept my apology but understand that many instruments that reside more in the folk than the classic realm are disregarded by classic music's self-appointed critics and gurus. Hence, there is little emphasis in "our" world on applying labels such as virtuoso. We know who some/most of the premier concertina players are but most of the outside world does not. It doesn't bother us much but then again it probably keeps these folks from earning the kind of living that they should from their music. All the more reason for us to support them at concerts and through the sales of their self-produced CDs, and the like. I now relinquish the soapbox to someone else.

Ross Schlabach

#10 Alan Day

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 10:35 AM

I think all the responses have been very well restrained and on-point, but I am inclined to believe that the question was intended to "wind us up"! If not, accept my apology but understand that many instruments that reside more in the folk than the classic realm are disregarded by classic music's self-appointed critics and gurus. Hence, there is little emphasis in "our" world on applying labels such as virtuoso. We know who some/most of the premier concertina players are but most of the outside world does not. It doesn't bother us much but then again it probably keeps these folks from earning the kind of living that they should from their music. All the more reason for us to support them at concerts and through the sales of their self-produced CDs, and the like. I now relinquish the soapbox to someone else.

Ross Schlabach

Exactly as I saw this posting Ross.
If I were looking for a Virtuoso Performance on this site I would ask the members properly,not in the back handed way this was worded.
As for the concertina not being a serious musical instrument that is absolute rubbish. Regondi is currently spinning in his grave I should think.
Al

#11 RatFace

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 10:47 AM

erroneous perception that the Concertina is not in fact a 'serious' musical instrument.


I don't think that this perception is erroneous, when the concertina is compared to other instruments:

It doesn't have any where _near_ the variation in tone, pitch and (probably) volume control of the bowed string family. There simply is no comparison here... the concertina makes up for it a little in being able to play multiple notes at once more easily, but why listen to a concertina playing 4 notes when you could hear a cello playing just one?!

Same argument as above for almost all wind/brass instruments, though there are a few instruments that don't really rise much above the concertina (in my opinion... without naming names!) - this is when comparing the best players of the instrument (and, in the case of the concertina, trying to imagine what it's really capable of).

The guitar beats it, imo: it has a similarly rather uninteresting sound, but there is more tone control available to a guitarist, and, multi-part music works so much better being able to control the volume of individual notes that are playing simultaneously. I think this beats the concertina's advantage of being able to change the volume of a note after it starts.

Keyboard instruments beat it in terms of the complexity of the music that they can play - all concertinas limit the note combinations more than piano-type keyboards, I think. Piano obviously has the individual note volume advantage. Harpsichord doesn't have this... but then many would not consider it too seriously either (wrongly, imo). Concertina is more portable... but that's not consolation when it comes to being "serious".

Another problem with the concertina is that it is _always_ out of tune - not only can it not adjust to subtle pitch changes when playing alongside other instruments, but the pitch changes with pressure and there's no way to compensate. In terms of tuning there's the horrible expression "good enough for folk".... in this case perhaps true.

The advantages it does have maybe explain why it's generally an "amateur" instrument - it always plays in tune (well, sort of), it doesn't scratch/squeak like a fiddle, it's portable, it can play multiple notes at once so self-accompany etc. However, these aren't the properties that are needed to make instruments "serious".

In terms of virtuosity, I don't think that there are any players that have anywhere near the virtuosity and total command of the instrument that you find on other more standard instruments. There are some very good specialists (especially in Irish music). I've played the cello since age about 10 and even so there are some cellists that make my eyes/ears bulge in wonder and I know that I could never reach their level in terms of technical and musical mastery. I've never got that feeling with concertina - it's all just pushing buttons and squeezing, and honestly it's not that hard. I don't know if that's because there simply aren't many full time professional concertina players, or if it's just that there simply isn't much that you can do with the concertina... but I suspect both.

For me the concertina is a "fun" instrument, and the cello is serious (and immensely fun too!). When other people (outside the concertina world) see it that way too, perhaps they're not wrong.

Edited by RatFace, 09 July 2008 - 10:52 AM.


#12 Chris Timson

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 11:20 AM

As ever, Danny, we have to differ.

Though, for the record, I do think your playing of the concertina approaches the virtuoso :)

Chris

#13 Richard Morse

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 11:43 AM

I think all the responses have been very well restrained and on-point, but I am inclined to believe that the question was intended to "wind us up"!

I disagree both that in many of the responses are NOT on point and that the question IS a serious and concerned intention.

I'd love it if people here would post links to virtuoso concertina playing and their thoughts on the concertina being a "serious" instrument.

Why is it that so few people even know what a concertina is? Why is it that so few musicians (and especially professional musicians) know what a concertina is? Why do 99% of the accordionists out there consider concertinas to be "toys"? Why is there so little in the way of teaching/study programs/courses out there? Why is there so little material written for concertina? Why is there no big-name (average household-recognition factor) concertinaists or recordings out there?

At least there has been some improvement. Many years ago I'd take out my box and people have laughed outright (that is even before I played). After playing they'd usually say "cute, limited, etc." and ask me what *real* instruments I played. Now-a-days people usually recognize it as a concertina (probably due to the increasing influence of Irish music on the scene), but have the concertina pegged as a "folk" (not-serious) instrument.

-- Rich --

#14 Anglo-Irishman

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 11:57 AM

In terms of virtuosity, I don't think that there are any players that have anywhere near the virtuosity and total command of the instrument that you find on other more standard instruments. (...snip ...) I've played the cello since age about 10 and even so there are some cellists that make my eyes/ears bulge in wonder and I know that I could never reach their level in terms of technical and musical mastery. I've never got that feeling with concertina - it's all just pushing buttons and squeezing, and honestly it's not that hard. I don't know if that's because there simply aren't many full time professional concertina players, or if it's just that there simply isn't much that you can do with the concertina... but I suspect both.


Ratface, I think you're on the right track here - in one point: there aren't many full-time professional concertinists (any more).

On the question of "Why not?" I'd disagree. It's not that the concertina is "just pushing buttons and squeezing". After all, the violin is just pressing strings and scraping, and nobody takes it less seriously for that!
The fact is, that you can have professional tuition on the violin, and if you're good enough, you can get a job in an orchestra, which is subsidised with public funds. Because it's officially "culture", and we have to support it.

This situation has grown historically. Academic music - the kind that you have to study to play, and which is therefore played by full-time professionals - had acquired its full complement of suitable instruments before the concertina arrived. Same with the saxophone - it never made it into the symphony orchestra either. It owes its success to its suitability for jazz.

As we all know, you can play the violin seriously or fun-wise, classically or folksily. The classical expressiveness does not come from the violin, it comes from the player. When I'm playing a concertina, I play just as expressively as when I play anything else. Because I'm a classically trained singer, and expression is important to me.

There are "folk instruments" as such (bagpipes and mountain dulcimers spring to mind), but there are fully chromatic instruments capable of a lot of complexity and expression that are classed as "folk" out of thoughtlessness.
The accordon is a case in point. It's as old as the concertina, and uses the same technology, but it is only in recent years that it has emerged from under the bridges of Paris or from the Scottish country dance band, or the Scandinavian folk-dance troupe, and been allowed to play Bach and Scarlatti - which it now does so well that "serious" composers are writing pieces for it.

Or take the Spanish guitar: until a few decades ago, it was a folk instrument that had been a fad with high society at one time, and had a few shallow, composed pieces written for it, but it was not a "serious" instrument. Since Segovia, musical public opinion has changed radically. The guitar is now a conservatoire instrument, like the simpler violin.

The instruments haven't changed. It's just that virtuoso players turned up and showed us what the instruments are capable of. What makes an instrument with the capabilities of a concertina "serious" or "light" is, basically, historically-grown opinion among the musical public.

IMHO

Cheers,
John

#15 Dan Worrall

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 11:58 AM

Hmm. My initial reaction is 'virtuoso, schmirtuoso!' I leave it perhaps for English concertina players to worry about whether their instrument is good enough for the classical standard...as they have been doing for 175 years. Worrying and debating; shrinking back when Berlioz lambasts it; reveling in Regondi's excellence. It is part of the deal for them, at least for those for whom it is still a classical instrument. If they are happy with it, so am I. I like listening to Dave Townsend on his recordings.

For Anglo players, it strikes me as an un-Anglo question. This instrument, from its extremely humble beginnings til recent years, leaves pretention and high culture angst to the others. It is all about picking it up on a summer's afternoon and playing a few tunes with friends. In recent years of course, some Irish players have studied it hard and lifted it to a level that I would agree to be virtuosity....and have developed a sizeable following of folks who now aspire to that level....serious weeklong workshops, etc. Then there are rare players of the 'English' style....folks like Kirkpatrick and more recently Jody Kruskal, who also approach a very high standard. More power to them...they inspire, and lift the level of interest in all of us! But I see no reason myself to worry about virtuosity of myself or of the instrument; I'm out to have a good time with some friends. Not saying I don't try hard, because I do practice....but that is only so that I don't embarass myself too much when with others, and so that I don't get bored with the instrument, not as a (for me) not attainable quest for pure virtuosity.

Have fun,
Dan

#16 m3838

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 01:02 PM

For me the concertina is a "fun" instrument, and the cello is serious (and immensely fun too!). When other people (outside the concertina world) see it that way too, perhaps they're not wrong.


Wow!
What a strong comment.
I agree with Danny on all points.
I don't want to agree with him, but my panicky search for vitruosos on English System didn't yeald any results. There are old recordings on Duets, they're very good, but any modern day young Russian Bayan player from below the conservatory level ("middle music school" - weird sounding term, isn't it?) beats them on all accounts of professionalism.
If Danny is right, it's horrible.
For me concertina is rare, has bigger sound it's size suggests, cute. But mainly, because of easiness of reading, it opened up lots of written music for me, that otherwise would have been unaccessable. I can't do the music justice, nor can any other EC player I heard so far, but having access to some approximation of music is better than none.
Other instruments may give better chance for expression, but been one of millions is not appealing. Lazy, that I am, I'd rather be bigger fish in smaller pond.
Russian Bayan players, on the other hand, having acheaved unimaginable level of performance, still sometimes complain that Bayan (button accordion really) is not always considered "serious" instrument, commonly called "Garmoshka", which is diatonic accordion, and mostly attributed to folk music. There is nothing more distant from Folk instrument than modern 5 voice 120 Stradella/Free bass convertor, 20 kilo Bayan.
So acceptance wise Concertina is in good company with Ukulele, Harmonica, Balalaika, Domra, Mandoline, and even Bayan.
Bandoneon, been large Concertina, has found it's niche and sticks to it, mainly due to Astor Piazzola. I guess EC is yet to find it's Piazzola.
Regondi-the-concertina-player lacks the brilliance, if his music renditions on the two Regondi CD's do him justice.
The only area of concertina playing, where I find great improvement and character is Irish Traditional Music. Sadly I'm not very interested in it.

#17 chiton1

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 01:58 PM

In my view a virtuoso is somebody whose technical and musical standards are at a level other players do (can) not reach. They make music that moves people (by their musicality) or baffles them by sheer technical skill, or a combination of both. It does not matter which kind of music they make and which instrument they play. They excel others.
The concertina world has perhaps less virtuosos as the classical music scene which is quite understandable when you see how many thousands of young violonists, cellists, flute players, etc. are trained every year in ways that are not imaginable in our little concertina world were one is glad to have followed a few workshops.
In my view Simon Thoumire is a virtuoso, playing brilliant music on his instrument (like it or not) that 99.9% of all other English concertina players can not make.

#18 Alan Day

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 04:33 PM

Once again Chris I join you in the praise of our Ratface ,Danny's playing is as near to virtuoso as you are going to get. In a few weeks the comparisons of the old English System players and the new will be something I look forward to.
Al




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