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Giulio REGONDI (1823-1872)
Souvenir d’amitié

Remembrance [14:40]
A Set of Three Waltzes [10:25]
Hexaméron du concertiniste [26:22]
Souvenir d’amitié [16:42]
Helmut C. Jacobs (accordion)
rec. 2-4 November 2005, Oranienburg Schloss Nordkirchen. DDD
MUSIKPRODUKTION DABRINGHAUS UND GRIMM MDG9031420-6 [68:39]


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Not much is known of the life of Giulio Regondi. According to the liner notes and what I’ve been able to find in online sources, he was born in Geneva to a German mother and Italian father. Father, a widower not long after Giulio’s birth, appeared intent on creating a prodigy and locked the young boy in a room, forcing him to spend hours a day practising the guitar. By the time the boy was seven they were on the road, at large in Europe, performing for the likes of Liszt and Paganini. After being introduced to the concertina during his time in Britain, he mastered the instrument, acting in great part on the surge in its popularity. Regondi kept an unwavering focus on these two instruments, the guitar and the concertina, in not only his performances but also in his composition.
 
The pieces on this nicely-recorded disc are touted by the liner notes as among the most difficult and demanding works written for concertina. The opening Remembrance for Baritone Concertina - which plays an octave lower than the Concertina - is a late piece, published during Regondi’s last year. It comprises a theme and four variations, preceded by an opening Larghetto, which gets things started off on a rather sentimental note. The somewhat wistful theme picks things up a bit, and the slower song-like third variation is quite beautiful, with long singing lines that lead to the brighter, more outgoing final variation, with just enough syncopation to keep things off-kilter.
 
The following Set of Three Waltzes composed thirty years earlier, are delightful light miniatures with wide leaps in register and a demand for great control over dynamics. Especially enjoyable is the middle section of the second waltz, which gives a weightier statement before moving back to the lighter main theme. These pieces most clearly show Regondi aiming to put smiles on the faces of his audience.
 
Composed with more of an aim to impress is the Hexameron of 1853, a melodic clutch of six virtuosic etudes intended to be performed of a piece. Precise attention to voicing is explored in the opening etude, with a singing melodic line that should be heard over the rapidly arpeggiated notes that swirl around it. Much sensitivity in playing is required in order for this to work well, and Helmut Jacobs performs these pieces admirably. The second tackles rapidly-repeated notes in the melodic line, with staccato chordal support. Another standout in this piece is the closing sixth etude, with its widely-leaping rapid runs and some surprising chord changes along the way.
 
Another late piece, published in the year Regondi died, is the Souvenir d’amitié, which begins rather ominously, but brightens up into a gently undulating melody. This at times recalls some popular pieces arranged for parlour reed organ, another instrument gaining a foothold at the time of Regondi’s death. The final movement is dance-like and charming, interspersed with short, more introspective sung sections before kicking up its heels with a sparkling close
 
The pieces here aren’t, and weren’t intended, perhaps, to be especially weighty. Overall, they are quite pretty and enjoyable, striking in their confidence and affinity for the instrument that they helped make famous. The liner notes are not only helpful, but also quite interesting, giving various technical details of the concertina.
 
Helmut C. Jacobs makes a strong argument for these pieces and plays them deftly, showing them in a most appealing light. I found it a rather unusual recording to be chosen for release in surround sound SACD. Concertina music? In surround sound? Orchestral or even ensemble music seems, from past hearing, to be best suited to such a medium. I’m not sure what the extra sense of aural space an SACD could add to this recording, but hearing it on a regular player the sound is very good, with a satisfying intimacy and accompanying ambience of the performance space.
 
Various recordings of Regondi’s guitar works are available, both on Naxos and Guild, but I’ve not seen the works presented on this MDG disc released previously. Overall, these are quite well-presented and pleasing, recommended especially for those who enjoy the lighter music of the mid-nineteenth century.
 
David Blomenberg
 


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