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#37 RatFace

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Posted 10 July 2008 - 09:37 AM

It's worth bearing in mind that the OP made two points that are quite independent:

1. Lack of virtuosity in concertina playing at the level found on other instruments.

2. It's not generally taken seriously by non-concertina players (and even by the occasional concertina player!).

The first half of my earlier post tried to explain why it might not be taken "seriously" by non-concertina players, especially those who play instruments they would (likely) claim are capable of a greater range of expression. I think that's a much more significant point than the virtuosity one, which is more to do with statistics and the (almost) absence of structured training.

The "serious" aspect really depends on what one wants to get out of music, and that varies so much between people. For some people music is spiritual, for others emotional, for others academic, for others social, for others functional (e.g. framework for dancing) and so on. Consequently it's pointless to say one instrument is better than another in general. However, if one asks why the "classical world" (whatever that is... but I think that's what the OP meant) thinks the concertina is inferior then the answer has to be reached using the framework that the classical world uses - and I think I gave some reasonable answers to that.

Of course, if you don't think that framework applies to your perception of music then it probably means you don't have much in common with the "serious classical" world of music, so you shouldn't care too much that the concertina isn't considered a serious instrument!

#38 Dan Worrall

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Posted 10 July 2008 - 11:21 AM

Dan, that cutting is an absolute gem!

Glad you liked it, Howard. It has become a favorite of mine.
Cheers,
Dan

#39 Rod

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Posted 10 July 2008 - 12:25 PM

Some of the initial response to my original posting of this topic was surprisingly hostile, with accusations that I was attempting to wind people up and that I was behaving in a cheeky and backhanded manner followed by the absurd suggestion that my few innocent words might lead to Giulio Regondi spinning in his grave. All good fun but thankfully the discussion was soon elevated to a more civilised and rewarding level.

I get the impression that Richard Morse, RatFace, Anglo Irishman, Dan Worral and Cocusflute are amongst those who have all grasped the point that I was attempting to make but they have all expressed it far better than I did.

Thanks to those of you who have made it possible for me to start compiling a list of your favourite Concertina performers. Keep them coming and I shall do all in my power to obtain any of their recordings. Rod.

#40 njurkowski

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Posted 10 July 2008 - 03:00 PM

the last posting was on the mark. . . .Berlioz rails only against the tuning and the acousticians who would saddle the instrument with it. . . . . . . .as far as i know, that is his only statement about the concertina. . . . .and it is in the treatise on orchestration...............we might note that his remarks about the instrument were written just a few years before some of the mainstream english composers turned their attention to it. . . . one can only wonder if he (Berlioz) ever came to know the music by Macfarren or Molique or Benedict, for example. . . . .allan


Well, Allan, far be it for a rube like me to disagree with you on matters classical.....but Berlioz didn't like the instrument he saw at the time. He called the scale of the English concertina 'barbarous', and to my mind it doesn't 'count' that its temperament was 'fixed' later....he didn't like what he saw and heard, and said so. Berlioz also called it 'annoying', as in :

The different tuning of a part of its scale becomes still more annoying if the concertina plays together with an instrument with movable tones such as the violin. .....To effect strict unison, the violinist would have to adapt his tones to the fixed ones of the other instrument; he would have to play off pitch. THis is actually done, but to a lesser degree-unconsciously and without offending the ear-when the violin plays with a pianoforte or with other well-tempered instruments.

I think it is commonly understood (but then I could be equally commonly wrong) that orchestral violins very subtly change their pitch to make things sound sweet....like making more perfect thirds... when such things are needed, something which strict adherence to ET does not allow. Beyond simply its 'barbarous' scale, I don't think Berlioz liked the fact that the concertina was another fixed tone instrument brought into the orchestral mix, where some instruments were still well tempered (like pianos) when the emerging ideal was ET. But as always, I bow to your greater knowledge....I am not too schooled in all that.


Not to keep dragging this up, but this is exactly the kind of out-of-context reading that perpetuates this misinterpretation of Berlioz's words. Those quotes that you have supplied are all directed at the tuning system of the instrument. The scale is "barbarous" because of the just intonation, and the fact that at the time, G# was literally a different note than Ab on the EC. The "barbarous" editorial isn't in regards to the instrument's tone quality or technical capability, but to the fact that a scale where G# and Ab were rigidly different. And it is exactly this that your extended quote describes. Rather than adjusting, as the violinist would be used to, to a more equal-tempered system, they are forced to adjust to the mean-tone system, which to Berlioz represented the tyranny of acousticians. This is really only clear if you read whole entry in the orchestration treatise - probably a good two thirds of it is devoted to similar condemnations of just-intonation. While it is clear that Berlioz was no fan of just intonation, all the problems he specifically mentioned about the concertina have been fixed by the adoption of equal-temperament, and thus it is unreasonable to make the claim that Berlioz would find the concertina intrinsically offensive. As my quote above shows, he even finds the timbre to match well with the harp or piano.

#41 Irene S.

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Posted 10 July 2008 - 03:40 PM

Most of the discussion on here seems to have been about English or Anglo players - with virtually no mention, if any, of the duet. I'm rather surprised that no-one has mentioned the virtuosity of Alexander Prince .... a sample of music can be found here

http://www.cylinders...mp;sortOrder=ia

With reference to the additional information regarding virtuosity on the Jews Harp - I'd not realised that there might be any link between the two instruments !! Mind you, the enforced use of new dentures to promote and continue one's art does sound a bit extreme ... I had wondered about having a go at playing one, since I can remember my father playing one when I was a child. Having read that any possible enthusiasm I might have had for the idea (a passing whim) evaporated somewhat :unsure:

#42 m3838

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Posted 10 July 2008 - 03:58 PM

As my quote above shows, he even finds the timbre to match well with the harp or piano.

It is quite interesting, as timbre of the concertina varies so much. I'm testing Lachenal Tenor in F with long plate reeds, and comparing it to my Albion - night and day!
One is metallic, ringing and more or less like a single reed accordion, another is round and "flutey" and nothing like accordion. I also remember testing Wheatstone nad George Case with brass reeds - remarkable differences between them and esp. compared to the Tenor. I don't know how deeply was Berlioz into concertinas and if he could make a difference between it and accordion. Could it be that Berlioz was actually talking about accoridons? And "barbarian" was attributed to multy voice "out of tune" rackett?
If violins generally palyed and play in just intonation, adjusting the scale as they go, why Berlioz didn't call their scale "barbarious"? Did he call all fixed pitch instruments barbarious? Flutes, fretted strings, pianos, harpsichords? Were woodwinds common in orchestras at his time? But they are too, pretty much fixed.
Why do we take Berlioz for expert in bellows driven instruments?
Would we also take his possible opinion about, say, balalaika virtues seriously?

#43 Dan Worrall

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Posted 10 July 2008 - 05:28 PM

the last posting was on the mark. . . .Berlioz rails only against the tuning and the acousticians who would saddle the instrument with it. . . . . . . .as far as i know, that is his only statement about the concertina. . . . .and it is in the treatise on orchestration...............we might note that his remarks about the instrument were written just a few years before some of the mainstream english composers turned their attention to it. . . . one can only wonder if he (Berlioz) ever came to know the music by Macfarren or Molique or Benedict, for example. . . . .allan


Well, Allan, far be it for a rube like me to disagree with you on matters classical.....but Berlioz didn't like the instrument he saw at the time. He called the scale of the English concertina 'barbarous', and to my mind it doesn't 'count' that its temperament was 'fixed' later....he didn't like what he saw and heard, and said so. Berlioz also called it 'annoying', as in :

The different tuning of a part of its scale becomes still more annoying if the concertina plays together with an instrument with movable tones such as the violin. .....To effect strict unison, the violinist would have to adapt his tones to the fixed ones of the other instrument; he would have to play off pitch. THis is actually done, but to a lesser degree-unconsciously and without offending the ear-when the violin plays with a pianoforte or with other well-tempered instruments.

I think it is commonly understood (but then I could be equally commonly wrong) that orchestral violins very subtly change their pitch to make things sound sweet....like making more perfect thirds... when such things are needed, something which strict adherence to ET does not allow. Beyond simply its 'barbarous' scale, I don't think Berlioz liked the fact that the concertina was another fixed tone instrument brought into the orchestral mix, where some instruments were still well tempered (like pianos) when the emerging ideal was ET. But as always, I bow to your greater knowledge....I am not too schooled in all that.


Not to keep dragging this up, but this is exactly the kind of out-of-context reading that perpetuates this misinterpretation of Berlioz's words. Those quotes that you have supplied are all directed at the tuning system of the instrument. The scale is "barbarous" because of the just intonation, and the fact that at the time, G# was literally a different note than Ab on the EC. The "barbarous" editorial isn't in regards to the instrument's tone quality or technical capability, but to the fact that a scale where G# and Ab were rigidly different. And it is exactly this that your extended quote describes. Rather than adjusting, as the violinist would be used to, to a more equal-tempered system, they are forced to adjust to the mean-tone system, which to Berlioz represented the tyranny of acousticians. This is really only clear if you read whole entry in the orchestration treatise - probably a good two thirds of it is devoted to similar condemnations of just-intonation. While it is clear that Berlioz was no fan of just intonation, all the problems he specifically mentioned about the concertina have been fixed by the adoption of equal-temperament, and thus it is unreasonable to make the claim that Berlioz would find the concertina intrinsically offensive. As my quote above shows, he even finds the timbre to match well with the harp or piano.

"Not to keep dragging this up", but I think you miss my point. Would you buy and drive a perfectly good new car with a perfectly flat tire (no pun intended)? Berlioz was asked to review the car. It had a 'barbarously' flat tire, which was 'annoyingly' out of synch with the three good ones. We have no record that anyone promised Berlioz that they would immediately fix the tire....so Berlioz wasn't buying this car to add to his orchestral fleet. It matters not that Berlioz liked the rumble of the exhaust, or the sound of its stereo system....consider the whole picture. At the time, Berlioz' review would not likely have been regarded as particularly favorable. Wheatstone, a scientist with clear sympathies with the acoustical science that Berlioz railed against, seems to have relented at some time later and fixed the tire problem in his car line, to make future sales (I don't think it is known whether Berlioz' review was a factor in that decision). What did Berlioz think after Wheatstone fixed the tire? We don't know.....and you are assuming that Berlioz was then fully pleased. But in fact, I don't believe there is any record of what Berlioz thought afterwards. But he never wrote the instrument into any of his orchestral pieces, at least as far as this non-classical folkie is aware. Or did he?
Cheers,
Dan
must quit listening to "Car Talk"; it is affecting my speech patterns.....

The

#44 allan atlas

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Posted 10 July 2008 - 06:07 PM

DAN: you're right. . . ..he did not like the temperament. . . .but that's what i said. . . . .allan

#45 allan atlas

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Posted 10 July 2008 - 06:10 PM

Berlioz was NOT talking about accordions at all. . . . .he was talking about concertinas. . . . . ..and he heard them at the 1851 exhibition............at which he was a judge of instruments..........allan

#46 allan atlas

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Posted 10 July 2008 - 06:12 PM

FOLKS: let's listen to Berlioz: he did NOT like the temperament. . . . .he DID like the timbre. . . . .if the timbre is the car and the temperament the flat tire. . . . i guess he would not have bought it. . . . . . .but at no time does he give a "total" condemnation . . . . . in the end, though, we can probably be fairly sure that, as the concertina was (with its temperament), B. was NOT a great fan ...............

allan

#47 njurkowski

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Posted 10 July 2008 - 06:20 PM

As my quote above shows, he even finds the timbre to match well with the harp or piano.

It is quite interesting, as timbre of the concertina varies so much. I'm testing Lachenal Tenor in F with long plate reeds, and comparing it to my Albion - night and day!
One is metallic, ringing and more or less like a single reed accordion, another is round and "flutey" and nothing like accordion. I also remember testing Wheatstone nad George Case with brass reeds - remarkable differences between them and esp. compared to the Tenor. I don't know how deeply was Berlioz into concertinas and if he could make a difference between it and accordion. Could it be that Berlioz was actually talking about accoridons? And "barbarian" was attributed to multy voice "out of tune" rackett?
If violins generally palyed and play in just intonation, adjusting the scale as they go, why Berlioz didn't call their scale "barbarious"? Did he call all fixed pitch instruments barbarious? Flutes, fretted strings, pianos, harpsichords? Were woodwinds common in orchestras at his time? But they are too, pretty much fixed.
Why do we take Berlioz for expert in bellows driven instruments?
Would we also take his possible opinion about, say, balalaika virtues seriously?


At some point, I should just photocopy the entry and post it, I think it would clear up a lot of questions. In the mean-time:

First of all, Berlioz has the entry for the instrument in his section on "New Instruments." He also writes about the saxophones, the harmonium, the "octobass," and several other instruments that never really took off. It is clear that he is talking about the concertina, not the accordion, because not only does he mention the accordion in the entry (calling early examples a "musical toy,") he mentions both the English and Anglo Concertinas by name (though he of course calls the anglo the "German" concertina - and makes it clear that he understands the Anglo is tuned in equal temperament), and describes their physical characteristics.

Berlioz was a skilled orchestrator, and spent a lot of time talking to musicians about the capability their instruments and listening to them play. Given his interests and descriptions of the tone, I would guess he spent a little time listening to a concertinist, but not and extensive amount. Though there are no doubt differences in tone between concertinas, his goal was to give a general overview.

The context of the "barbarous" comment is very clear. Berlioz spends a few paragraphs talking about the tone and range of the concertina before launching into a lengthy diatribe against the intonation system of the instrument. The comment in question comes after a page of this diatribe, and he is clearly making the comment in reference to the difference between enharmonic equivalents on either side of the instrument, which he views as a silly anachronism. He makes this clear by writing out the scale directly under the barbarous comment, writing the notes found on the left side of the instrument, and then, separately, the right, in order to showcase the fact that what should be the same note is spelled differently on the different sides of the instrument.

Violins didn't really play in just-intonation. They adjusted as the tuning demanded (the third of a chord would be a little flat - things like that). Strings, winds, and brass instruments are able to control their intonation at will, but are used to having to match to an equal tempered system. When the system is artificially "fixed" (like in the just intonation system), it forces the other instrument to adapt in irregular ways, since the intonation tendencies of a note vary by its context - the chord it is appearing in, generally, and just intonation doesn't take this into account. For that reason, just intonation seems like a cleaner system in theory, but doesn't work as well in practice (in theory, anyway ;) ). For the record, woodwinds may appear fixed, but every competent player lips tendency tones up or down and adjusts, just like a string player. The comment, in context, is clearly referring to the intonation system.

We take Berlioz seriously because he was arguably the best orchestrator of his day, and put a lot of effort into assessing an instrument's capability. Even so, I don't agree with a lot of his opinions, so it wouldn't bother me that much if Berlioz didn't like the concertina (it's really quite unclear from the entry whether he liked the other qualities of the instrument or not). What bothers me is people misrepresenting his quotes out of context. The only thing that is clear about the entry is that Berlioz hated the intonation system.

I'm not assuming that Berlioz liked the concertina after the tuning was fixed. The only claim I make is that all of his complaints about it are now moot, as the tuning system switched over. It is much more foolish to assume that Berlioz would've disliked the instrument once the problems were fixed then it is to assume that he would have had an improved view of the instrument, and completely misleading to say that Belioz out and out disliked the instrument without explaining that it was the tuning system that he disliked. It's a fallacious argument to say "Concertinas at the time were tuned in unequal temperament. Belioz hated unequal temperament. Therefore Berlioz disliked all concertinas unequivocally." Which is really what you are implying when you say "Berlioz didn't like the concertina." You ignore the context of what he was critiquing.

To continue the car talk.

The 2008 Car X has un unfortunate problem of bursting into flames because of a faulty catalytic converter. Click and Clack give it a bad review.

Click and Clack die in 2009. In 2010, Car X's catalytic converter is fixed.

"Click and Clack don't like the Car X." It's true, they didn't like the 2008 version. But it'd be misleading to say in 2020, "Well, Click and Clack didn't like Car X." It ignores the historic context.

Edited by njurkowski, 10 July 2008 - 07:10 PM.


#48 m3838

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Posted 10 July 2008 - 06:25 PM

Oh, I just read about Berlioz and Concertina of the time and it looks like Berlioz was familiar with English Concertina pretty well.
In which case I completely lose his point of view, as expressed by above posters.
Can anybody explain in simple terms, why having G# and Ab is bad so much, that it's barbarious?

#49 Frank Edgley

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Posted 10 July 2008 - 07:15 PM

Rubbish!!!!!

#50 allan atlas

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Posted 10 July 2008 - 09:45 PM

FRANK: what's rubbish. . . . do you think B. liked the concertina. . . .or is the whole thread rubbish. . . .


something to keep in mind: we know that Mendelssohn, Berlioz, and both Schumanns (Robert and Clara) were acquainted with the concertina. . . . .Mendelssohn heard Regondi perform in england and then both he and the Schumanns heard Regondi in Leipzig. . . . .

note, though, that none of them rushed out and wrote a concerto or sonata or anything else for the instrument.............allan

#51 Richard Morse

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Posted 10 July 2008 - 10:01 PM

Most of the discussion on here seems to have been about English or Anglo players - with virtually no mention, if any, of the duet. I'm rather surprised that no-one has mentioned the virtuosity of Alexander Prince .... a sample of music can be found here

http://www.cylinders...mp;sortOrder=ia

Thanks for the link. That's one of his performances that I hadn't heard before. Interesting that they consider the piece a "solo" when there's a piano playing along the entire time!

-- Rich --

(Yay duets!)

#52 Irene S.

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Posted 11 July 2008 - 10:42 AM

(Yay duets!)


Just been rehearsing a duet on a duet with another duet .....Yay indeed !!! :)

#53 m3838

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Posted 11 July 2008 - 12:00 PM

(Yay duets!)


Just been rehearsing a duet on a duet with another duet .....Yay indeed !!! :)


Alexander Prince is very good.
But I'm bothered with those honky chords, that just stick out there. I'd prefer some decay on them or something. Accordion players learn special technique to diminish heaviness of the chords, and concertina players commonly just..., yea, stick them out, like automobile horn. Is there anybody else, who bothered with it? Similarly, I'm not great fan of those "random harmony notes" here and there in Irish Anglo playing. They often are in most unexpected places, and instead of supporting the rhythm startle me. The melody kind of stumbles. It feels like they play old instruments with few reeds absent. I think concertina chords need very carefull attention, they're not such automatic pleasure, as many imagine.
Is it only my perseption?
So in my book, Alexander Price is not a virtuoso to the full extend. He dazzle me with brilliant performance, and then suddenly: "Ho-onk". Spell is gone.

#54 Dirge

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Posted 11 July 2008 - 03:52 PM

A thought: We're told that early concertinas were offered as melody instruments, to play violin parts and the like. It seems unlikely to me that people would have missed the possibility of playing chords, even at the beginning, but if this was so and if it was marketted squarely as a melody instrument I wonder if the early perception would have been much as we saw the stylophone when it came out, as a scientific novelty that made it easier for duffers to play music, but you wouldn't expect anyone to take it seriously.

"This product of new technology will play every note infallibly in tune at the touch of a button but you've lost all the possibilities for reed or bowing nuances, so clearly it is never going to be a 'proper' instrument", says our mid 19c musician. Berlioz may not have thought anyone expected him to think about it hard.




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