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Joseph Petric Bach Trio Sonatas & New Commissions

J.S.Bach Six Trio Sonatas BWV 525-530

Joseph Petric accordion & Normand Forget oboe

Odeofon Records 2005

The first recording of Bach's Trio Sonatas with accordion was attractive in prospect.

The timbres of oboe and accordion are somehow too close for comfort, so the expostion of these popular organ works in a version for oboe and accordion by the Petric-Forget Duo isbest listened to one or two of the sonatas only at a sitting.

Recommended to Bach explorers and to players of both these instruments.

Peter Grahame Woolf


New commissions for solo accordion by Janika Vandervelde, Rose Bolton, Micheline Roi, Jocelyn Morlock & Linda C. Smith

Audio-Ideas AI-CD-016 [71 mins]

Rameau - Harpsichord pieces

AI-CD-015 [72 mins]

I last heard Joseph Petric (the only accordionist active today who devotes himself solely to concertizing and the interpretive art of the accordion) at a late night Huddersfield Festival recital, playing little pieces by Howard Skempton, a minimalist composer who has a great following in UK.

Petric has commissioned most of 200 works for his instrument and "Euphonia" is a CD of solo accordion commissions from North American women composers, most of them Canadian, all of whom demonstrate a certain austerity and inwardness in reaction against more conventional accordion virtuosity, though I would not describe any of them as 'minimalist'.

I found the music attractive at first, Janika Vandervelde's distinctly witty, with a Latin-American flavour, then Rose Bolton's Seriosity and sonata, in which the actual notes are important as against the primacy of washes of colour and rhythm so often met with. But I got impatient with the thin textures that pervade the whole disc, and most of the compositions are best heard separately.

We are not given d.o.b's of the composers to help get our bearings (they are of various generations) so I have had to look up all their websites and leave you to do likewise (URLs below*); worth doing, and not too hard for prospective internet-purchasers, who however might not have the patience to do so? A lively Canadian scene emerges, one unfamiliar to most European collectors.

The presentation of Euphonia is appalling; messy 'artwork', drab cover, clotted text over-printed in grey with vague illustrations in the background making it all discouraging to read. Petric's petentious notes do the interesting composers no favours by talking of "intertextual juxtaposition as women composers engage the accordion - - feminisms present a welcome fit for the artistic terrain of the accordion" etc. But it is well played and recorded and the repertoire is worth all accordionists getting to know.

Completely different is a generous selection of Rameau harpsichord pieces, in three groups - again, best taken separately, because of the limitations of accordion timbres.

They encompass a wide variety of moods and include some longer pieces, e.g. the 8½ mins L'Enharmonique is touching, and Petric exploits all the varieties of rhythmic nuances of the composer's idiom, and contemporary playing style, to great effect. Petric's concentration makes you listen intently, and justifies representing this composer by more than by using just a few of his pieces as encores.

Joseph Petric has kindly answered queries about his instrument, see below.**










Joseph Petric has kindly supplied me with information about his instrument, which he claims is superior to the Piginis, which I had innocently believed were the "Rolls-Royce" of the accordion - that term often used informally to describe anything that is considered the best of its type (Wikpedia) - as Rolls-Royce cars used to be.

I wonder if these discs really brings out the instrument's potentials at its best?

**The Niemi Accordion

- - Regarding my instrument, no I do not play a Pigini, nor is my instrument like a Pigini. My instrument is of the lineage of the original free bass instrument patented by the Italian Franco Vercelli , first attestation 1908 - a 9 row left hand combination accordion which means that there are 3 rows of free bass between the bellows and the 6 rows of the normal stradella or 'fixed chord' accordion. This allows for an acoustic resonating mass which has been sociologically validated since before WW I in the West, though never matched or achieved by any bayan or bayan- accordion (Pigini).

This is the instrument that Alban Berg wrote for in his opera Wozzeck
in 1926, 22 years after its patent.

It is the instrument that was used as the precise model for the basis of the golden years of the Hohner instrument building era between 1960 and 1970 with the master builder Giovanni Gola, who was lured away from the magnificent Italin builder Dallape in the late 1950s, and who built the GOLA free bass instrument.

Gola's name was on the the finest accordion Hohner product ever built. Ellegaard had 3 built for him in the years 1960 to 1978. Two of them are in England now. I consider the GOLA period in the 1960s as the Stradavarious period of accordion building. For luminosity, balanced harmonic spectrum and focused sound, it has never had an equal - until my prototypical instrument.

Using this historical validation, you may read details as to the prototypical building features I helped engineered with my luthier, to enhance the original patent in the liner notes to the Rameau album. I approached the creation of my accordion not unlike Stradavarius with his Servais cello in the early 1700s. - - The instrument used in this recording was built for Joseph Petric by Canadian Leo Niemi in 1994. Visually impressive and bold in overall conception, it is refined in its minutest details. The design incorporates a synthesis of elements from the concert accordion’s first attestation dating from 1908 by the Italian builder Franco Vercelli. It respects Vercelli’s prototypical 9 row combination free bass and stradella left hand and 5 row C system right hand configuration, and includes contemporary design innovations to meet the demands of a modern intertextual art.

With a wider resonating body than a conventional accordions this instrument is a conscious shift from the smaller resonating body sizes common in the latter half of the 20th century, a shift similar in principle to that which can be found in the larger Servais French form cello built by Stradivarious in 1701. The Niemi accordion contains carefully selected woods and reed block design to ensure an even and flexible harmonic spectrum. It eschews the high metal content and industrial production line approaches of bayan-accordion design since 1982. The larger resonating body, graduated thickness of chambers and instrument walls, the ossification of wood surfaces and innovative spacing of sound holes, all reward the artist with ease and flexibility in tone production. Prototypical soundpost construction, tuning concepts, and surface finishes all help to deliver a unique sound in a synchronized manner throughout the instrument’s resonating body.

For this recording, the accordion was tuned by the builder beginning on the lowest note at A-435, and incrementally graduated to arrive at A-440 on the first note of the second octave, where it remains through subsequent octaves.

- - The artistic ramifications of your questions are confirmed on my website in my discussion of the ACCORDION J.P.

I am advised that Janika Vandervelde's piece was commissioned by Guy Klucevsek and that Ms. Vandervelde is American, not Canadian.

© Peter Grahame Woolf