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Dirge

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

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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.

 

 

I think Anglo is covered. The biggest question is English and Duet. Again, Duet is at least partially covered, if to count Bandoneon and Chemnitzer, esp. Bandoneon. MaCann is partially covered because it was an instrument of choice by concertina professionals in the early recording era, so we have living prove of the quality existed. That quality is unmatched by today's players and with that it was far cry from contemporary players of established instruments.

So the question is not whether top players haven't arrived yet, but why top players of yesterday were on substandard level. The question is not whether you or me like particular sound, or whether some player steers emotion - it's a matter of individual taste. The question is using accepted pallette of methods: accent, rhythm, dynamics, ... what not. So far discussion was rotating around: "Concertina's voice is not consistent throughout the range" vs. "I like the sound".

Apples to Oranges.

Top accordion of today has much more consistent voice/feel from top to bottom compared to concertina. I haven't played top instruments, but judging by recordings I heard - same problems of slow low reeds and squeaky/muffled top reeds are persistent. If I was a high level musician, looking for portable instrument, I'd pass the concertina for it's unfortunate technical deficiences.

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To be fair, very few instruments are actually consistent in tone quality throughout their whole range. Strings might get the closest, but most wind instruments definitely are not. An English horn is beautiful low, but gets pretty pinched up high. Flutes are quite shrill in their highest register, and clarinets sound drastically different if they are playing in their chalumeau or clarino registers. Composers study orchestration so they they know how to use the different ranges of each instrument. While there aren't as many clarinetists with solo careers as violinists, no one would doubt the "legitimacy" of the instrument. I really don't think differing characteristics in differing registers is particularly noteworthy.

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I have really lost track of what M3838 is trying to prove. Is it that across a range of criteria, that M3838 has chosen to adduce, that the concertina does not measure up to many other instruments? Well, on the basis of various other criteria it beats a large number of instruments. There is no obvious criteria that demand inclusion in such a judgment. There seems to be a considerable lapse in logic here. The credible issue would seem to be that of what kind of music one wishes to play and what sort of effect one wishes to produce, and then choose the instrument that can best accomplish the task. I really don't think anyone can make the case that one particular instrument is the all around best or that the concertina is one of the all around worst. If either should be the case, I would like to see someone else advance such an argument and offer a basis that exceeds opinion.

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I have really lost track of what M3838 is trying to prove. Is it that across a range of criteria, that M3838 has chosen to adduce, that the concertina does not measure up to many other instruments? Well, on the basis of various other criteria it beats a large number of instruments. There is no obvious criteria that demand inclusion in such a judgment. There seems to be a considerable lapse in logic here. The credible issue would seem to be that of what kind of music one wishes to play and what sort of effect one wishes to produce, and then choose the instrument that can best accomplish the task. I really don't think anyone can make the case that one particular instrument is the all around best or that the concertina is one of the all around worst. If either should be the case, I would like to see someone else advance such an argument and offer a basis that exceeds opinion.

 

Well, I think he's certainly overstating his case a bit. I would agree that a concertina is not as versatile as a violin, or piano, or even a large chromatic accordion. There might be some truth in why it wasn't ever really adopted as a mainstream instrument in the western classical tradition. But it's also needlessly limiting to be caught in a late 19th/early 20th century mindset about such things. I personally think that the concertina has a huge amount of potential in western classical music, particularly in a chamber music context.

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I would agree that a concertina is not as versatile as a violin, or piano, or even a large chromatic accordion. #

 

 

I wouldn't. Various properties of a concertina can outdo each instrument, just as there things it doesn't do as well. In your examples; a concertina is much more expressive than a piano and can crescendo a held note, but can't emphasise particular notes in a chord much. And, going right back to my original point, a violin cannot play polyphony, but is even more expressive than a concertina as a result of the player's control over the tuning and timbre of every single note.

 

I'm not prepared to concede anything less than parity.

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I would agree that a concertina is not as versatile as a violin, or piano, or even a large chromatic accordion. #

 

 

I wouldn't. Various properties of a concertina can outdo each instrument, just as there things it doesn't do as well. In your examples; a concertina is much more expressive than a piano and can crescendo a held note, but can't emphasise particular notes in a chord much. And, going right back to my original point, a violin cannot play polyphony, but is even more expressive than a concertina as a result of the player's control over the tuning and timbre of every single note.

 

I'm not prepared to concede anything less than parity.

 

 

By versatile, I guess I mean, "can fill more roles." Many of these roles are not functions of the qualities of the instrument, but rather functions of the western classical establishment. One couldn't as easily play a reduction of an opera orchestra for a rehearsal on concertina, for example. The violin is a staple of both solo and ensemble playing, and can play rather convincing polyphony (I think 3 voices qualifies as polyphony). My conception of versatility does not equal a value judgment, or a judgment that these instruments are somehow more legitimate than a concertina. A trombone isn't as versatile as a piano either, but there are certainly some things that a piano can't do that a trombone can.

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I have really lost track of what M3838 is trying to prove.

 

 

I think it's because you haven't read my posts. And why should you?

For one, I 'm not trying to prove anything at all, I'm asking questions.

For two, my suspicion, not proving, but suspicion is that Concertina is not yet a choice of professionals, and so market demands have not caused makers to pay attention to some specific problems: irregular response of higher reeds, slowness of lower reeds, ergonomics of the handle, button travel, shape of the buttons etc. Anglo, as folk instrument, is free from such pickiness, but English, designed to play on par with Violin, met very strong partner/enemy.

It seems you are arguing on the premise of abstract possibilities. I'm asking to show me the craftsmanship of playing, matching the craftsmanship of construction. So far I see maker/player ratio favoring maker. Which means talented people largely will consider Concertina a toy, and talented composers will not write for it. This last outcome is very bothersome for me. I can't care less about some high end player in some high end venue, but I use the printed music for my personal satisfaction, and am forced to arrange pieces. I'm not an arranger.

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I'm not prepared to concede anything less than parity.

 

I think the single fact that you can't control the pitch and volume of a note on a concertina independantly (i.e. there's about 10 cents difference between the pitch of notes played reasonably quietly/loudly) is such problem. You cannot crescendo/decrescendo a note on the concertina without it going out of tune.

 

Unfortunately, changing the volume (and therfore pitch) of a note is the only (tasteful) thing you _can_ do on a concertina!

 

Playing in pretty much perfectly controlled tune is absolutely essential in chamber music at anything above a "mediocre amateur" level - that means an accuracy of just a few cents (on sustained notes). It is simply not possible to do that with the concertina - especially if one tries to play with expression/dynamics (also essential). Whether or not this matters is a matter of opinion, but the facts are not - my (very nice) concertina is about 5 cents sharp at a reasonably quiet volume, and 5 cents flat when reasonably loud, around the middle of the normal range. That amount really matters, especially amongst "serious" musicians (players and listeners).

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I'm not prepared to concede anything less than parity.

 

I think the single fact that you can't control the pitch and volume of a note on a concertina independantly (i.e. there's about 10 cents difference between the pitch of notes played reasonably quietly/loudly) is such problem. You cannot crescendo/decrescendo a note on the concertina without it going out of tune.

 

Unfortunately, changing the volume (and therfore pitch) of a note is the only (tasteful) thing you _can_ do on a concertina!

 

Playing in pretty much perfectly controlled tune is absolutely essential in chamber music at anything above a "mediocre amateur" level - that means an accuracy of just a few cents (on sustained notes). It is simply not possible to do that with the concertina - especially if one tries to play with expression/dynamics (also essential). Whether or not this matters is a matter of opinion, but the facts are not - my (very nice) concertina is about 5 cents sharp at a reasonably quiet volume, and 5 cents flat when reasonably loud, around the middle of the normal range. That amount really matters, especially amongst "serious" musicians (players and listeners).

 

Wow, that is an issue....I assumed it was just my Stagi...

 

Even so, part of chamber music is adjusting to the instrument(s) that can't adjust, whether a piano or some sort of pitched percussion. If you are playing with a conscientious group of string or wind players, the impact of this could be minimized by having the other instruments adjust to you (Yes, it'd be a bit out of tune, but everyone would be out of tune together, so it wouldn't seem AS obvious).

 

Still, that is a bit of a problem. Do other free reeds have this issue?

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I'm unimpressed and unrepentant. This is just one of those things you have to accept, just as French horn players must accept that once in a while their instrument will quite gratuitously generate a howlingly wrong note without provocation. No one demands their removal from the brass section, do they?

 

I'm not sure that ensemble playing is an important part of the life of the concertina as a 'serious' instrument anyway. I'm certainly happy playing solo, thank you, for what little that proves.

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Difficulties in playing in an ensemble certainly makes the instrument less versatile...

 

And with the horn example, a really good horn player can minimize their clams though practice and technique. If what Danny says is correct, then no amount of technique will help with the problem.

 

Even so, I agree that we shouldn't claim too much, that the instrument is somehow intrinsically inferior. Every instrument has their idiosyncrasies, and its a matter of working around them, playing and writing idiomatically.

 

At any rate, it isn't like the instrument just never took off. The surviving Victorian music of the time shows that technical prowess was pretty high, and, if Regondi shared a billing with Clara Schumann, I would suspect that he was viewed as something more than a mere novelty (though I think that novelty likely played into it). The current state of the concertina's acceptance (or lack thereof) by the classical establishment can't be traced to just one issue.

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Difficulties in playing in an ensemble certainly makes the instrument less versatile...

 

Unfortunately I am able to hear those deviations without any ensemble. I was thinking it's my technique or instrument in need of setting up.

Danny confirmed my worse suspicions. No wonder. I guess that's why accordions have double reeds.

Another design feature is small size. Is it possible that small size of bellows contributes to instrument having less dynamic possibilities? I haven't noticed much of pitch changing when I listen to accordion. Bach is staple music for Russian classical Bayan repertoire, and I heard very good rendition of Bach on Bandonion. Even Danny's rendition of classical pieces (he's sitting there blushing. Don't want to blush? - Don't publish your playing!), yes, even Danny's renditions are kind of..., mm..., cute, you know? It's like someone who can sing sea chanties really well, in comparison to professional Operatic Baritone (regardless of whether we like it or not. Just from a professional point of view: control of the voice, pitch, breathing, presence etc.).

So perhaps if I could put my hands on nice square English, the size of a Bandoneon, with double reeds: - + 2cents each, I'd be happy? Or perhaps such an instrument will be sought by soloists, arrangers and composers? Which means re-design of a handle, and we are back to earlier discussions.

Edited by m3838

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Difficulties in playing in an ensemble certainly makes the instrument less versatile...

 

Unfortunately I am able to hear those deviations without any ensemble. I was thinking it's my technique or instrument in need of setting up.

Danny confirmed my worse suspicions. No wonder. I guess that's why accordions have double reeds.

Another design feature is small size. Is it possible that small size of bellows contributes to instrument having less dynamic possibilities? I haven't noticed much of pitch changing when I listen to accordion. Bach is staple music for Russian classical Bayan repertoire, and I heard very good rendition of Bach on Bandonion. Even Danny's rendition of classical pieces (he's sitting there blushing. Don't want to blush? - Don't publish your playing!), yes, even Danny's renditions are kind of..., mm..., cute, you know? It's like someone who can sing sea chanties really well, in comparison to professional Operatic Baritone (regardless of whether we like it or not. Just from a professional point of view: control of the voice, pitch, breathing, presence etc.).

So perhaps if I could put my hands on nice square English, the size of a Bandoneon, with double reeds: - + 2cents each, I'd be happy? Or perhaps such an instrument will be sought by soloists, arrangers and composers? Which means re-design of a handle, and we are back to earlier discussions.

 

You have a penchant for the dramatic, Michael.

 

And either you have a better ear than me or my Stagi changes less than your box - I just checked my concertina against a tuner, and there is about an 8 cent range between the instrument's version of pp and ff. Unless you are playing a long crescendo from pp to ff, this might be noticeable, but this isn't particularly common. A more moderate variation (that I would consider typical of phrasing) changes my tuning maybe 4 cents, and this really doesn't jump out at my ears. I really don't notice that kind of change unless I am playing with an ensemble and can hear the beats against the other instruments. In a group, sure, it would be an issue that others would have to adjust to, but alone, 4 cents isn't very much. Keep in mind a quarter tone is 50 cents...The equal tempered system of a piano means that the third of a major chord is more out of tune than that (the third should be 14 cents lower than in equal temperament). While this change can be noticeable when listening to chords on a piano, I don't think it is particularly distracting, especially not in the context of a piece. Certainly, the equal tempered system is pretty well established, and the liberties taken with tuning have not prevented the piano from being a preeminent concert instrument.

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Unless you are playing a long crescendo from pp to ff, this might be noticeable, but this isn't particularly common.

The opposite is very common - the ability to decrescendo and let a final note die away is really important - and the pitch change there disturbs my ears. I heard a nice phrase on the radio a while back - describing the decaying sound of a plucked lute string as "the perfect death".

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Unless you are playing a long crescendo from pp to ff, this might be noticeable, but this isn't particularly common.

The opposite is very common - the ability to decrescendo and let a final note die away is really important - and the pitch change there disturbs my ears. I heard a nice phrase on the radio a while back - describing the decaying sound of a plucked lute string as "the perfect death".

 

Very important for a string instrument, maybe. But there are other instruments that have other problems with a niente ending (it can be pretty tricky on a brass instrument, but not for tuning reasons). Such an ending might be very idiomatic on a string instrument or clarinet, but not on, say, a pipe organ (which I strikes me closer to a concertina anyway). The organ isn't inferior because it can't do what you described. It plays different music - some might view it as somehow less expressive, but that's a matter of opinion. Certainly that's important to note, but again...it's part of writing and playing to the instruments strengths, which is what started this whole thread. I don't think a concertina should be trying to imitate strings to begin with.

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I don't think a concertina should be trying to imitate strings to begin with.

No, it shouldn't. But as several have said, it can do its own things with the music. And it doesn't need to play a different set of melodies to do so.

 

It may well be that later composers wrote "tone poems", which depended on the unique qualities or capabilities of particular instruments in order to set their moods, but the baroque (Baroque?) composers wrote tunes. As far as I can tell, the composers didn't intend for these melodies, harmonies, or chords to show off the special tonal qualities of individual instruments, much less the maximum extent of their sonic versatility. It wasn't unusual for these tunes to be used and re-used for different instruments or combinations of instruments.

 

That's one reason why I like baroque music so much. In Bach's Two-Part Inventions, normally played on a single keyboard (and particularly a modern piano, which I doubt sounds like any keyboard of Bach's day), the left hand part is perfectly suited to a cello and the right hand to a violin. I greatly doubt that this was an accident. Many other baroque keyboard pieces can be broken into individual parts which are precisely limited to the ranges of other instruments, particularly flute, violin, viola, and cello.

 

I have greatly enjoyed playing -- even performing -- the 2-part invention in Dm, in two configurations: 1) I played the right hand part on a treble English and a friend played the left hand part on a cello; 2) I played the left hand part on my bass English and a friend played the right hand part on a violin. Another time it was a 3-part invention (by Quantz, was it?) for oboe, violin, and continuo, which we played on piano, flute (for the oboe part) and concertina (myself on the violin part). The pianist, by the way, was also a fine English concertinist. It was he who set me on this road when we got together to play some English country dance tunes: He pulled out the music for the famous Bach double violin concerto, which we read through on two concertinas. It was beautiful, exciting, and a lasting inspiration.

 

Baroque is wonderfully suited to the concertina, and though it doesn't sound the same as it does when played on strings -- or woodwinds, or brass, -- I don't believe it is at all inferior. And there's plenty of non-baroque stuff that I feel is also well suited to concertina, though I won't claim that all of it is.

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I wasn't saying that every piece of music is some sort of edifice that can only be played on the instrument was written for; I simply said that certain techniques and styles don't work the same on every instrument.

 

By the Baroque period, most pieces were conceived with a rather set instrumentation in mind, I believe. There are plenty examples of pieces written for a strict ensemble, and what is this kind of orchestration if not an attempt to take advantage of each instrument's unique capabilities? Renaissance music was much different - that was often entirely flexible. Also, I'm not sure what you mean by "tunes." The subjects and themes of pieces by Baroque masters were quite carefully composed and worked out to foster maximum contrapuntal and developmental possibilities...not something that comes to mind when I think of a "tune," but I suppose that's a matter of opinion.

 

And I agree...Baroque music can work quite well for concertina, in part because of the organ-like qualities of the instrument that I mentioned. However, just as you wouldn't hear a monophonic Baroque organ piece, I agree with Dirge that a monophonic Baroque concertina interpretation is not well suited to the capacities of the instrument. Polyphony is required in this type of music, as it is for the organ, to add interest to an instrument which is perhaps not as sensitively expressive as a string or wind instrument. As long as the interpretation takes advantage of the instrument's capacities, I wouldn't call it inferior either.

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I wouldn't call it inferior either.

 

But nobody so far called it "inferior". Saying that two door car has two doors doesn't make it "inferior". But it is valuable observation as there are people who need four doors.

 

 

 

 

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