Henry Doktorski
Organist Accordionist Composer Conductor Author Educator
The Accordion with Alia Musica
Alia Musica Pittsburgh
Alia Musica Pittsburgh and soprano Jamie Jordan

April 6, 2013: Henry Doktorski performed on accordion in Luciano Berio's El mar la mar for two sopranos and seven instruments and Nissim Schaul's Shadow in the Hot Sun for soprano, string trio and accordion with Pittsburgh's Alia Musica Chamber Ensemble conducted by Artistic Director Federico Garcia.

Luciano Berio (1925-2003) was an Italian composer noted for his experimental works (perhaps best known among these is his series of works for solo instruments titled Sequenza) and also for his pioneering work in electronic music. Berio's publisher, Universal Edition, wrote: "El mar la mar is a 1952 setting of a poem by the Spaniard Rafael Alberti; Berio reworked it 17 years later for flute, two clarinets, chromatic accordion, harp, cello and contrabass. Although the piece consists of three verse-settings, two parts can be characteristically differentiated: a lyrical movement of beguiling beauty, in which the soloists’ sustained notes seem to anticipate Birtwistle’s vocal style, and a fast, frolicsome movement featuring a prominent part for the accordion."

Nissim Schaul has a BA from Columbia University with honors in music and a Masters in Composition from SUNY-Stony Brook. His main teachers have included Martin Matalon (current), Allain Gaussin, Sheila Silver, and Jonathan Kramer. He has attended numerous summer workshops (American Conservatory at Fontainebleau, 2003; Académie Musicale de Villecroze, 2009; MusicX, where he worked with eighth blackbird, and Acanthes, 2010; June in Buffalo, 2012). He is now researching mixing electronics and period instruments (like harpsichord or viol) at the University of Paris 8 under the direction of Anne Sedes. Nissim is also picking up the vielle à roue (French hurdy-gurdy), just for fun.

Other works on the program included pieces by Federico Garcia, Robert Dick and Ricardo John-Muldoon. The featured soloists were flutist/composer Robert Dick, soprano Jamie Jordan and mezzo Raquel Winnica-Young. The sold-out concert began at 7:30 pm at the Bricolade Theater at 937 Liberty Avenue, downtown Pittsburgh.

Maestro Garcia commented about the use of the accordion with chamber ensemble, "The accordion is an interesting addition to the soundworld of this Alia Musica concert. In the piece by Nissim Schaul, it interacts with a string trio to provide a backgorund, full of subtleties and intriguing effect, for a solo soprano voice. In the nonet by Luciano Berio, the accordion ia part of a multicolor combination of instruments, that includes harp, piccolo, bass clarinet, etc. -- a unique chamber music soundscape."

William Schimmel, a classical accordionist based in New York City who studied composition with Berio at the Julliard School of Music in the late 1960s, wrote, "It [El mar la mar] was written to my knowledge in 1949 and published in 1952. He [Berio] wrote it for accordion--he never said why--but Berio is Italian and it's part of the culture. In his youth he played tympani in an accordion orchestra. He often referred to a six-foot-tall accordion that Scandalli made. He revised the part for me [in 1969]--fleshed it out a bit. This is what my memory is telling me." *

Nissim Schaul spoke about his piece: "The first iteration of Shadow in the Hot Sun was called Three Studies and I wrote it at the Académie Musicale de Villecroze, under the guidance of Bernard Cavanna. A more idyllic setting for a composition residency could not be imagined - in the hills of Provence, with the constant sound of running water wafting over from the nearby stream. The title (initially its subtitle, back when it had three movements) was a direct result of the place, I found it while walking around the fields -- shadow is a bit threatening, but in the summer Provençal sun, some shade is all you want. Time in Villecroze is short, so some revision and outright rewriting proved necessary. I finally got to that in early 2013, in preparation for the performance heard here, by Pittsburgh's Alia Musica ensemble."

Doktorski talked about his involvement with the Alia Musica concerts:

"It was a great pleasure for me to perform under the direction of Maestro Garcia, who by the way, is a fine chessplayer who I have had the pleasure to lose against and draw once during Pittsburgh USCF tournaments.

Regarding the accordion with Alia Musica, Luciano Berio is best known, at least among classical accordionists, for his virtuoso solo accordion piece: Sequenza XIII known as "Chanson" (1995). However, the accordion is also prominent in his "El mar la mar," composed some forty years earlier. One might think it curious that Berio wrote an accordion part for only the right hand. However, this makes sense to me as his piece is very light and delicate and at times, pointilistic. Sometimes we hear a long tone hardly audible, sometimes we hear a sound here and there; nearly always piano or pianissimo with a thin texture as to always keep the female voices prominent in this tone poem about a man's childhood memories of living near the sea (el mar)."

Schaul, on the other hand, writes for both manuals of the instrument, but like Berio, keeps the dynamics quiet. The accordion is the only wind instrument against the three strings, with the exception of the solo soprano. The first section is rather dreamy and reminds me of what it might feel like to be stranded on a desert island with a blazing sun roasting overhead. In the second section the accordion plays an ostinato figure while the strings tinker around with glissandi and slow-moving patterns. All in all, the works are very interesting and in my opinion, beautiful music.

Because I was playing the work on a piano accordion (the work was originally written for chromatic button accordion) I had to make some modifications, but the end result I believe was nearly identical with the part as originally presented.

To listen to Berio's El Mar La Mar, 3rd movement, Click Here.

To listen to Schaul's Shadow in the Hot Sun, Click Here.

For more about Alia Musica, Click Here.

Performers included:

Jamie Jordan, soprano
Raquel Winnica-Young, mezzo soprano
Deidre Huckabay, flutes
Emily Cook, clarinets
Rachael Stutzman, clarinets
Henry Doktorski, accordion
Marissa Knaub, harp
Cody Green, cello
Ben Crofut, bass

Photos by Deidre Huckabay.

* William Schimmel, e-mail to Henry Doktorski (April 5, 2013).

Alia Musica Pittsburgh

one page of the accordion part from Lucian Berio's "El mar la mar"...

Alia Musica Pittsburgh

Rehearsing Nissim Schaul's "Shadow in the Hot Sun" with Dawn Posey, violin; Katie Kroko, viola & Cody Green, cello...

Alia Musica Pittsburgh

Rehearsing Nissim Schaul's "Shadow in the Hot Sun"

Alia Musica Pittsburgh

Rehearsing Luciano Berio's "El mar la mar" with double-bassist Ben Crofut

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