Portrait of Peter Paul Koprowski thumbtack

Accordion Concerto

conclusion from movement I. Festa (1'17")

Toronto Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Jukka-Pekka Saraste
Accordion: Joseph Petric
Score sample

Duration: 23 minutes

Written: 1993

Premiered: September 18, 1994

CBC Vancouver Orchestra

Conductor: Victor Feldbrill

Accordion: Joseph Petric

RECORDING

(CBC Records - SMCD 5206)

CD includes Koprowski's:

Redemption - record
  • (Robert Aitken, flute)
  • (Rivka Golani, viola)

Jukka-Pekka Saraste, conductor
Toronto Symphony Orchestra

“All three concertos are gripping, large-scale, full of virtuoso demands for the players and an emotional pay-off for the audience. The 1993 Accordion Concerto, the most unusual, pays homage to Koprowski's Slavic roots. A dark strain of East European soulfulness permeates all three works.
For visceral excitement, it is hard to beat the 1996 Viola Concerto, yet the piece is full of melancholy lyricism and a poetic display of the viola's dusky warmth.
The fullest spiritual range is in the 1982 Flute Concerto, which has a Prokofieff-like scherzo and a limpid flute line set against a turbulent, colorful orchestra.”

September 2001 - American Record Guide

Instrumentation:

  • Accordion Solo
  • 2 Flutes (second doubles on Piccolo), 2 Oboes, 2 Clarinets, 2 Bassoons
  • 2 Trumpets, 2 Horns
  • Timpani/Percussion (2 players preferred)
    (Glockenspiel, Xylophone, Woodblock, Ratchet, Maraca, Snare Drum, Bass Drum, 2 Bongos, 2 Congas, Glass Winds Chimes, Glass Bell Tree, Triangle, Suspended Cymbal, Sizzle Cymbal, 2 Tam-Tams
  • Strings (minimum one Double Bass with low C extension required)

Movements:

  1. Festa
  2. Cantilena
  3. Danza

Background:

Peter Paul Koprowskl and Joseph Petric began to discuss the idea of an accordion concerto in 1989. Petric requested a work that would build bridges to new audiences for the concert accordion, and provide the soloist with a virtuoso vehicle. Koprowski viewed the accordion as an evocative and exciting voice.

The composer's use of a highly personal harmonic language, rhythmic vitality, drama and lyricism, has made for a significant, dramatic, and unique addition to the concerto repertoire. In three movements, the work became a confluence of European orchestral tradition and contemporary vernacular elements.

About the work Koprowski writes: “The work is one of virtuosic proportions. It is one of 10 concerti written within a time period of a decade or so. They are as different from each other as the instruments they were written for. Some of them I wrote with a degree of ease. But not all of them. It took me several years to write this work – rather an unusual occurrence. I was, quite frankly, terrified of the one unknown to me aspect of the instrument. The Concerto was to be written for a button accordion and much of its virtuosity depended on this type of an instrument!”

The first movement, Festa, has a substantial cadenza in the middle, a tribute to the soloist's virtuosity and interpretive skill.

Petric has transcribed several Baroque and Pre-Classical works for the accordion, and his impressive interpretations of these pieces inspired the second movement, Cantilena.

To honour the ethnic origins of the instrument and to pay tribute to the traditional vernacular Slavic roots that the soloist and I have in common, I created the third movement, Danza, as a boisterous apotheosis of life. In it, virtuosity is displayed side by side with lyricism. My penchant for the humour of the absurd sees a Parisian Waltz and a Polish Mazurka combined with African drumming. Tempo Presto, so prevalent in the movement, brings the work to a decisive end.

“The most conscious aspect of this work was my deliberate choice not to employ the usual abstract special effects so common to much of contemporary accordion repertoire. Rather, the solo instrument was used as a vehicle to execute the structure and drama of the music”.

Petric writes “My desired outcome for the Koprowski Accordion Concerto was that it be placed in a middle ground in the accordion repertoire - between the clichéd associations of the past and the unforgiving abstract new music of more recent decades”.

On the basis of its success since its premiere, Koprowski's Accordion Concerto can be considered both a public and artistic achievement, an altogether noteworthy accomplishment in the accordion repertoire.

Since its premiere in Vancouver in 1994, the concerto has been performed on several occasions by various artists in Canada, USA, and Europe, most recently in Amsterdam and Lisbon.
It was recorded on CBC Records by Joseph Petric and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Jukka-Pekka Saraste.
“By virtue of its success, its length and soloistic writing, the recording of it deserves to be noted as the most significant accordion concerto recording since Nordheim's SPUR”, notes Petric.

Dedicated to Petric, the concerto was written on commission from the CBC, the Ontario Arts Council and the Laidlaw Foundation.

(See related story: “From the Metro to the stage”)