Three quarters of an hour of contemporary accordion music might not at first seem too enticing a prospect, unless you're a player. But once again, the imagination, insight and commitment to musical experiment in all its breadth and depth of the Italian Atopos label prove you wrong! The CD's title, of course, is an allusion to the aria in Puccini's Tosca sung by Cavaradossi, Recondita armonia. Fisarmonia is the Italian for accordion. Recondita (plural, as here, recondite) is harder to translate: "subtle", "hidden", "special", "prized" are all senses of the word.
So this is a collection of five shortish works (ranging in length from six to thirteen minutes) by mostly living composers (Berio died in 2003) cumulatively advancing the claims of the accordion as a serious, expressive and indeed beautiful instrument with a place as a solo medium for a highly enjoyable experience.
Teodoro Anzellotti was born in 1959 in Puglia (Italy) but grew up and studied in Germany. A leading expert at his instrument, he has given many premières and won even more competitions. It's obvious from just a few minutes of listening to Recondita armonia that he deserves his prominence: his playing is both versatile and expressive. He makes the accordion "talk" yet retain its most melodious qualities.
Slow Motion was written in 2002 by Toshio Hosokawa (b.1955); it is inspired by the Japanese Gagaku court dance music… inherently slow and deliberate. Hosokawa has the accordion emulate the Japanese sho. This is a beautiful and reflective piece; it's dedicated to Anzellotti, whose playing accords closely with composer's affinity with the earth (dance as the globe spins apparently slowly on its axis, for instance) and natural phenomena. Desde los bordes in 2003 by Natalia Gaviola consciously explores the boundaries between pitch, melody and timbre as these can be exposed by the accordion. There is much in the piece to attach to musically, though. As is the case with Ligeti's Musica ricercata, which was composed in the early 1950s when the composer was fascinated by another relationship which later emerged as a preoccupation of the minimalists – that between rhythm and sound. The crispness and richness of Anzellotti's playing throws enough light on this relationship to make listening to the work truly stimulating. It is for accordion, yet Anzellotti approaches and plays it in such a way that we see both beyond and into the instrument in achieving a greater understanding of such properties.
Two works, a version of Játékok (1990-98) by Kurtág (which further explores play, one of the composer's preoccupations) and Berio's Duetti (1979-1982, which implicitly examine virtuosity by being written specifically at different levels of difficulty) have been arranged for accordion by Anzellotti. The performer's approach to each exemplifies the essence of the music on this CD, though: to provide musical substance (and pleasure) as much as – perhaps more than – to explore cognitive or technical premises. His great strength is to combine both facets of the music in convincing and transparent ways. This is a CD – despite its apparent particularities – that results in a cohesive and enjoyable musical experience.
The CD comes in Atopos' signature fluorescent cover (in this case bright green and grays/black) which suggests the music's – and the concept's – vibrancy and singularity. Short notes accompany the CD itself. The acoustic is immediate and yet roomy enough for the best to be made of this interesting presentation.
Copyright © 2011, Mark Sealey.