Weber, Scarlatti, Piazzolla, Zoltariev; Paul Chamberlain; Pentland Music
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Jul 25 2014
Transcriptions and more from the young Scottish accordion player
Paul Chamberlain was one of the first classical accordionists to graduate from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. His debut disc, Classical Accordion, was released in 2011 and featured a mixture of transcriptions and new music for accordion. On this new disc, Accordion Sensations, he performs transcriptions of music by Carl Maria von Weber and Scarlatti, plus music by Astor Piazolla and Vladislav Zolatriev (Zoltaryov), performed with the Maxwell Quartet and violinist Feargus Hetherington.
Chamberlain opens with Carl Maria von Weber’s Konzertstuck in F minor originally written in 1821, it is in four movements which run continuously and is explicitly programmatic, describing a young woman waiting for her husband to return from the war. Chamberlain’s performance is simply dazzling, both in terms of the degree of speed and complexity, but also in terms of the subtlety he brings to the quieter moments. At times he manages to sounds as if he has three hands. The transcription manages to capture both the sustaining sense of the orchestra and the more percussive aspects of the piano.
Chamberlain follows this with a pair of Domenico Scarlatti sonatas, Sonata in F sharp minor, K25 and Sonata in G major K 455. Both are nicely perky with some lovely even passagework and a fine neo-classical feel to the performance.
Astor Piazzolla wrote his Five Tango Sensations in 1989 for himself to perform on the bandoneon (a form of concertina, popular with tango bands in Argentina) with the Kronos Quartet, here Chamberlain plays three movements (Asleep, Loving, Fear) on the accordion with the Maxwell Quartet. Asleep is a slow lyrical piece which develops into a slow yet complex texture. The accordion is to the fore, the strings are closely miked so that they sound like a larger body of strings. Loving is a throbbingly seductive piece, full of the sounds and rhythms we associate with Piazzolla, whilst Fear is a wonderfully rhythmic evocation.
Vladislav Zolatriev was a Russian composer and bayan player (the bayan is a form of chromatic accordion invented in Russia in the 20th century). His Sonata No. 2 is a lovely neo-classical work which he originally wanted to call Symphony in the style of Haydn. The Allegro ingenuo is a delightful chattering sort of Haydn Allegro. The middle movement, Adagio tranquillo molto is slow and evocative (in fact it describes a sunrise), but with a nice spiciness to the harmonies. The final Vivacissimo con spirito is a lovely romp which gives Chamberlain the chance to show some nifty fingerwork.
Piazzolla’s Le Grand Tango was written for him to play with cellist Mstislav Rostropovich in 1982, fusing tango rhythms and jazz syncopations in an attractively exotic mix, here giving a spirited and vibrant rendition by Chamberlain and violinist Feargus Hetherington.
This is a fine disc showcasing both Chamberlain’s talent and the versatility of the modern accordion. Perhaps the sound world of the instrument is something of an acquired taste and I was a little dubious at first but confess to being won over. So, do try it!
Carl Maria von Weber (1786 – 1826) – Konzertstuck in F minor
Domenico Scarlatti (1685 – 1757) – Sonata in F sharp minor, K25
Domenico Scarlatti (1685 – 1757) – Sonata in G major, K455
Astor Piazolla (1921 – 1992) – Tango Sensations
Vladislav Zoltariev (1942 – 1975) – Sonata No. 2
Astor Piazzolla (1921 – 1992) – Le Grand Tango
Paul Chamberlain (accordion)
The Maxwell Quartet
Fergus Hetherington (violin)
PENTLAND MUSIC CD02 1CD [62.54]
Paul Chamberlain was one of the first classical accordionists to graduate from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow, where he studied with Djordje Gajic. He graduated with a BMus (Hons) degree and subsequently graduated from the Conservatoire with a Master of Music Performance with Distinction. He has proven to be an active concert artist with appearances around the globe and has released another CD titled CLASSICAL ACCORDION in addition to this new one titled ACCORDION SENSATIONS. Both CDs are well worth the space in your collection of accordion recordings! Paul Chamberlain performs every selection very well and with the necessary attention and devotion to details. ACCORDION SENSATIONS includes the following interesting and outstanding repertoire: Konzertstück in F minor (Carl Maria von Weber) 1. Larghetto affetuoso 5:20 2. Allegro passionate 5:05 3. Tempo di Marcia 2:42 4. Presto giocoso 5:39 5. Sonata in F# minor – K 25 (Domenico Scarlatti) 2:40 6. Sonata in G major – K455 (Domenico Scarlatti) 2:50 Tango Sensations (Astor Piazzolla)(accordion & string quartet) 7. Asleep 6:27 8. Loving 5:05 9. Fear 3:55 Sonata No. 2 (Vladislav Zolotariev) 10. Allegro ingenuo 6:38 11. Adagio tranquillo molto 4:00 12. Vivacissimo con spirito 3:40 13. Le Grand Tango (Astor Piazzolla)(violin & accordion) 8:53 Total time 62:54 Accordion audiences rarely hear the complete Konzertstück, so it is quite pleasant to hear all four of the movements, especially since many competition entrants tend to make cuts in the original. Listening to all four movements helps make us aware of the original importance of this piece as a major work.
Both of the Scarlatti Sonatas work extremely well for the accordion and once again demonstrate how the accordion can perform the repertoire of this period and, quite especially, the works of this composer.
The music of Astor Piazzolla seems to be almost required these days on both solo recitals and in performance with chamber groups. The pieces heard on this CD are some of the most popular, as well they should be. Le Grand Tango was originally composed for Cello and Piano in 1982, but subsequently arranged for Violin and Piano by the famous Russian composer, Sofia Gubaidulina. Other arrangements followed; this one being made by Paul Chamberlain for Violin and Accordion. Feargus Hetherington (www.feargushetherington.com) is the violinist in this important Piazzolla work.
Asleep, Loving and Fear come from Five Tango Sensations for String Quartet and Bandoneon written in 1989 and they, too, have become popular in various arrangements. The Maxwell Quartet (www.maxwellstringquartet.com) performs beautifully with Mr. Chamberlain. Listeners will appreciate once again how well the accordion blends with strings!
The Vladislav Zolotariev Sonata No. 2 became one of the most performed accordion/bayan solos in world competitions for many years. Like all Zolotariev works, it is demanding, and explores the many sounds and techniques so important to the instrument and for the performer to demonstrate during competitive events. It is a melodic piece with an exciting ending and one which performers enjoy performing and audiences love to hear. Mr. Chamberlain has rightfully included his performance of it on this particular CD.
Paul Chamberlain demonstrates his artistry and his technical proficiencies very well throughout this CD. All of the repertoire is important and represents many possibilities available to modern day accordionists. Students of the instrument should avail themselves of the opportunity to hear each and every one of these pieces again and again while others will simply enjoy hearing the varied repertoire so very well performed. There are well-written liner notes, too. I recommend the CD to all who like the accordion or who want to know more about its possibilities.
ACCORDION SENSATIONS was engineered by Matt Harvey@Maybank Studios.
Paul Chamberlain may be contacted at www.theaccordionist.com
Reviewed by Joan C.Sommers – November 2014.