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We often hear from the Classical establishment that the accordion lacks original repertoire from the 19th Century. Much of the Baroque and Classical repertoire for keyboard instruments can be played on classical accordion but once we get into the Romantic Period of the 19th Century, much piano music especially is less convincing on the accordion due to the use of sustained pedal and arpeggiated left-hand figures. Whilst Tchaikovsky, and Giordano all wrote for accordion in that period the music was little more than a cameo appearance for a few bars in larger works. It’s really not till the early 20th Century that we start to get composers like Shostakovich, Prokoviev and Hindermith writing more seriously for accordion and not till the second half of the 20th century that we start to get larger solo works.
Now, Corrado Rojac and Illaria Nardi have written a book on the music of Giuseppe Greggiati, a clergyman and musician who wrote not only original pieces for the accordion from 1839 onwards but also a “method” outlining how the instrument should be played. The accordions of 1839 were very much in their infancy. They were bisonoric (or diatonic as they are often called) more akin to a melodeon than a modern classical accordion and they lacked many feature of the modern instrument such as registers and extensive ranges of notes. Nevertheless, this book is an exciting glimpse into original accordion music of the day. It’s surprising in its detail and includes all articulation and dynamic indication and also in the level of dexterity needed to accomplish some of these piece especially given the limitations of these early instruments.
Corrado Rojac has also produced one of these early instruments, mastered it beautifully and has also recorded a DVD of himself playing it. (Available soon).