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CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS

Classical Accordion
Arne NORDHEIM (1931–2010)
Flashing (1985) [7:21]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
*Overture in the French Style, BWV 831 [7:04]
Luciano BERIO (1925-2003)
Sequenza XIII 'Chanson' (1995) [9:15]
Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757)
*Sonata in D minor, K.77 [5:09]
*Sonata in D, K.33 [3:12]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
*12 Variations on 'Ah, Vous Dirai-je, Maman' [8:45]
Alfred SCHNITTKE (1934-1998)
*Revis Fairy Tale [10:19]
Yuji TAKAHASHI (b.1938)
Like a Water Buffalo (1985) [10:32]
Ástor PIAZZOLLA (1921–1992)
+Asleep [from: Five Tango Sensations (1989)] [6:51]
* arrangements
Ksenija Sidorova (accordion)
+Sacconi Quartet
rec. Music Room, Champs Hill, Sussex, 13-15 April, 2010; 7 June 2010 [Piazzolla]; 22 January 2011 [Takahashi, 1st movement]. DDD

Experience Classicsonline

This is young Latvian accordionist Ksenija Sidorova's debut CD. The liner notes say, quite rightly, that the accordion is "an under-exploited resource in Western classical music". Sidorova's great enthusiasm for her instrument, which she wants to move away from its folk-music associations, comes across very strongly not only in her media interviews but more importantly in her performances in this recital.
The five pieces that have been transcribed for accordion may on the face of it be little more than 'lollipops', but they do show how splendidly a skilled accordionist like Sidorova is able to take almost any material and make it sound as if it was originally composed for this incredibly applicative and versatile instrument. Someone hearing, for example, Bach's Overture in the French Style BWV 831 for the first time played on the intended harpsichord may well be able to ascribe it to Bach, but arranged for accordion it frequently sounds like a folk piece which, though its Frenchness may be gainsaid, might have its beginnings in any number of periods or places. Even Mozart's Variations on a tune known to a dozen generations of children across Europe sounds as if it might have originated on the accordion. However, apart from the typically polystylistic Schnittke suite, the booklet does not indicate who made the transcriptions, and that is rather a pity, because whether it was Sidorova or someone else, the arranger deserves at least some credit for this musical beguilement.
As to the original works for accordion (or bandoneón, in Piazzolla's case), it may come as a surprise to many that an uncompromising modernist like Luciano Berio wrote a work for an instrument with such a whimsical reputation, all the more so to discover that the piece in question is one of his Sequenze! As it happens, Sequenza XIII has been recorded a few times, by Joseph Petric on Naxos, for example - see review. The subtitle 'Chanson' comes from Berio's imagination - he had in mind "the accompanied melodies of trips to the country and the songs of the working class, of night clubs, of Argentinean tangos and of jazz." His description gives some idea of the - for Berio - popular idiom, and it is without doubt one of his most instantly appealing works.
Arne Nordheim was also a modernist, though he has more accordion 'previous' than Berio - Flashing, in fact, is based on the cadenza of his 1975 accordion concerto Spur. If any criticism can be made of Sidorova's varied programme, it is the placing of Nordheim's piece at the top of it: not that Flashing is a forbidding work, but it does not yield up its secrets with any special urgency and perhaps suggests a harder-going recital for the non-specialist listener than it really is.
Like renowned Japanese accordionist Mie Miki - see enthusiastic review of the latter's recent CD release on BIS (CD-1804) - Ksenija Sidorova is a fantastic player, having technique and passion in abundance. If Sidorova is Latvia's answer to Miki, her inclusion of Yuji Takahashi's reflective Like a Water Buffalo is a tribute: Takahashi wrote this piece for Miki, who recorded it a decade ago for BIS - see review for details. The curious title comes from a short poem by Australian poet Wendy Poussard, which Sidorova reads out as a preface to the multi-faceted music.
By way of an encore, or 'bonus track' as the CD says quaintly, the final piece, the first movement of Piazzolla's Five Tango Sensations, features a first and last appearance for the Sacconi Quartet, taking the place of Piazzolla's original dedicatees, the Kronos Quartet. Even though it relies heavily on an ostinato, this piece is indeed a sensation, gloriously mournful and haunting, and an inspired way to bring this impressive debut disc to an end.
The CD is beautifully recorded, although the microphones might have been better placed a little further back from Sidorova - the unavoidable clacking of the buttons is quite noisy at times. The attractive booklet is informative and very cleanly laid out.
This is, in sum, an alluring disc that offers a fine introduction to Sidorova's already beautifully toned musicianship.

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