S&H Concert Review

Czardas Duo (Matthew Forbes - cello; Ian Watson accordion) The Arts Café, Commercial St, London E1. 28 March 2001 (AF)

What springs to mind at the mention of accordion-playing may not stretch far beyond Stella Artois adverts in oldest France, but across Europe and increasingly in the UK, the concert accordion (bayan) is attracting serious coverage and serious repertoire (see S&H's reports from Rotterdam & Geneva - Ed.).

The Czardas Duo performed a full programme to a crowded Arts Cafe in Commercial St, London. The new venue's aim is to promote classical music in a relaxed atmosphere. (Drink wine and chat - and that's just the performers.) Relaxed it was, but not at the expense of musical integrity. The Duo gave a polished programme of Bartok, Vivaldi, Albinoni, Bridge and Gershwin. Both graduates of the Royal Academy of Music (where there is an active accordion department) the Czardas Duo arrange their repertoire themselves - the results make a refreshing change, even where the repertoire is better known. In Matthew and Ian's hands, Bartok's Romanian Dances regained the folk air they tend to lose in the string-orchestra adaptation, and Gershwin's Piano Preludes translated with ease onto cello and accordion, thanks chiefly to the association of jazz violin and mouth organ. A highlight was Rimsky Korsakov's Flight of the Bumble-bee, which was every bit as buzzy as you could wish for. Monti's Czardas is clearly a party-piece: this Hungarian drinking-song made an ideal last order for the evening. Matthew commented that they were 'an unusual duo', and they're not wrong. But they do at least have something new to say, or at least a new way of saying it. There's no doubting the talent here - they enjoy what they do and they do it well.

Abigail Frymann

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