Classical Accordion Recital Reviews
FORTNIGHTLY CD REVIEWS, Accordions Worldwide
According to Henry Doktorski’s CD Program Notes, this CD “presents stylistically diverse transcriptions and original works for accordion spanning a historical time frame from the mid-eighteenth to the twenty-first centuries. All selections were played in real-time with a converter/free-bass accordion.” I believe the most successful of the pieces are those played with the free-bass, perhaps, although all of the pieces are performed very well.
He has indeed included diverse repertoire! This might be a manner in which listeners of this recording would be introduced to repertoire they previously thought they would not enjoy. It is often hard to get someone interested in Waiting for the Robert E. Lee to even listen to the Hovhaness pieces. There is absolutely something on this CD that will the listener will like and, yes, they just may find they liked some of the pieces more than they thought they would! All of the composers represented by the transcriptions are of the first rank with interesting and often well known selections included.
While one might differ with some of Doktorski’s transcriptions or interpretations, you cannot fault his musicianship or the scholarship behind his work. He plays extremely musically and with an obvious passion for his art, regardless of the period or the style of the compositions, and gives each of the pieces a fine performance. His abundant program notes are interesting and well written. The recorded selections all fit the accordion beautifully, and would give a first-time listener of more serious music performed on an accordion a new perspective of the instrument and its great potential.
Henry Doktorski stays very active performing and recording. He has several hats he wears and among them is that of a composer and, indeed, he concludes this CD with one of his short accordion solos. I recommend this recording, particularly to all those lovers of the accordion who are just now building their libraries and, perhaps, making an effort to hear music other than what they are used to hearing all the time. You will like this recording!
Joan Cochran Sommers
Squeezing Outside the Box
This is a fascinating CD. Henry Doktorski’s Classical Accordion Recital (self-release) features 29 solo live recordings on a free-bass concert accordion (both hands are melodically independent). Doktorski performs a number of classical pieces, including Handel’s Suite for a Musical Clock, and selections from Schumann and Johannes Brahms. He also plays George Gershwin’s Three Preludes as well as pieces, both classical and popular, written specifically for the instrument.
I was struck by the beautiful sound of this under-appreciated instrument and how the melodies of these pieces were able to breath and unfold so profoundly. I had never realized that there was even a genre of classical accordion before hearing this CD, but I’m looking forward to hearing more.
THE FREE-REED REVIEW, The Classical Free-Reed, Inc.
Henry has a genuine feeling for Baroque music and his performance of the Handel Suite for a Musical Clock is excellent; he plays it with a clean, clear and singing quality. The Air is particularly beautiful. The Suite may represent his best work on this CD and is comparable to the work of an outstanding specialist in Baroque like Øivind Farmen. Henry definitely evidences a talent for modern works—and not to make unfair comparisons—it is interesting that Glenn Gould similarly had an affinity for baroque and modernity (at least, Schoenberg, Bartok, Krenek, Hindemith, Prokofiev, etc.). Gershwin’s Three Preludes can’t really be considered that modern in the sense of today’s new music, or even the five previous listed composers, but they're good works; interesting miniatures that contain insightful excursions into Gershwin’s less popular thinking. You might say they’re images of Gershwin’s take on synthesizing jazz and keyboard composition in a classical vein, similar to his take on jazz and composing for an orchestra and piano in Rhapsody in Blue.
The final prelude has an aura of a “Jazz Age Big City” cityscape and Henry catches the pace and contrast nicely. I’m glad he performed these Gershwin miniatures and he interprets them nicely without the advantage of dozens of other accordion performances to inform; pianists can hear Chopin played by thousands of others and seek a well-worn rut or do a 180 on the rut and deliver “their own” interpretation. Henry’s interpretive choices on the Gershwin preludes are his own and they’re tasty and insightful.
Henry’s performance of Alan Hovhaness’ brief Suite for Accordion is very good, his execution clean. The Solene movement is like a chant, almost Gregorian at times, with bass and treble playing in contrasting keys. The Presto is quasi-baroque and Henry is in his element—excellent, but over too soon. The Allegro Vivo seems to intentionally evoke a bagpipe with a hint of Middle Eastern quartertones. The composer’s Hymn, which was written for Henry, interestingly toys with the Dies Irae theme. It's not a major work, but as a concept for the accordion it’s effective and played quite well. Henry’s breath control is good; neither Hovhaness nor any listener could ask for more.
Henry plays Piazzolla’s Oblivion with a fine sense of lyricism. His opening run at 44 seconds is lovely (and even better at 3:49 ff.) and equally nice each time on its repeat. It’s amazing how a few notes can jump out at a listener. I played the CD for others and they all perked up on the run and said, “That’s lovely; he did something there.” What is it when something like that happens? Was there a connection between the player and something beyond—within? An insight, an intuition—maybe something unconscious and Henry doesn’t even know what we’re talking about—but it can happen in even a few notes and it did here. The contrasting B section is energetic and well played. Henry feels the piece deeply and conveys his complex feelings of despair, hope and reconciliation—a neurasthenic triptych that Piazzolla felt deeply.
I like Henry’s own composition, Rondo Polska; it’s a literal scherzo, or joke. Henry is having fun with a simple three-note theme and the many ways he can topsy-turvy it. It’s rare that we have humor expressed in accordion music; this is a light, pleasant example.
Henry has given us an eclectic CD and the overall achievement is quite high. It’s a generous offering and he interestingly sustains much of it. Many anthologies are more like auditions for the artist than albums, but I think Henry put the music first; he presented things he liked and wanted to bring to our intention, worthy pieces that ought to be heard and he did so in a forthright manner. In a lot of ways, the disparity of the selections gives the CD a lively, spontaneous feeling and delivers a solid sense of fun.
Dr. Paul Allan Magistretti
FORTNIGHTLY CD REVIEWS, Accordions Worldwide
The program consists of transcriptions as well as originals. Amongst the transcriptions to be especially noticed is the Suite for a Musical Clock by Händel; this suite of 6 movements makes everybody conscious of Doktorski’s baroque sonority and mature taste, established over years of historical-musicological studies.
Additional to this transcription are others that could be defined as “appropriate” chosen pieces to be enjoyed by the public such as Träumerei of Schumann, Hungarian Dance No. 5 of Brahms and the personal arrangement of Oblivion by Piazzolla.
Another transcription “dangerous” is the one of the Three Preludes for piano by Gershwin. A very difficult transcription to convey, even wanting to grant great admiration to all Americans for this outstanding composer.
On the plan of the original works, the album acquires fully its value and profoundness. A brilliant circle that presents Doktorski in the double dress as a composer and performer (Rondo Polska); the two works of greatest importance are Suite Op. 166 (about 1959) and Hymn by the great American composer of Armenian-Scottish origin, Alan Scott Hovhaness.
Hymn was written for Doktorski, who is presenting here a very expressive demonstration, characteristic of this accordionist that emerges always in the most melodic and expressive passages.
WQED-FM (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
Man, this is a good one. I like it sonically, too—the reverb is tasteful, doesn’t sound fake. And, wow, the playing is cool right out the starting gate with the Handel pieces. I’m going to try to get some of it put on the WQED-FM Arts Magazine broadcast this Sunday. I’ll definitely put it on my daily show as well as on my weekly Performance in Pittsburgh show. Good stuff, Henry.
ROBERT KUBACKI (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
Your CD was spectacular. You did a fabulous job of playing. Your playing was beautiful, and just so sublime. You have quite a virtuosity in terms of technique, and a wonderful touch that the beauty of the music really comes through as each of the composers intended it. It was delightful.
STEVE YOOL, Accordion Club of Tucson, Arizona
Enjoyed your reading of the Hovhaness Presto! Like you, I also have an affinity for Hovhaness because 1) his music has wonderful modulations and tempi; and 2) he and my father passed away on the same day, same year. I love his orchestral works and, while at Tucson’s Folk Shop, I pulled out of a cardboard box a yellowed copy of his Suite for Accordion. I am now working on the Suite, and appreciated hearing from your online sound file how it should sound.
ROGER MERRICK (Birmingham, United Kingdom)
I have now played your CD and I’m very impressed. Obviously my main interest is the Hovhaness, and they are extremely interesting, being quite different in style from other Hovhaness solo instrument work that I’ve heard. The Gershwin arrangements are lovely, and indeed, the whole CD is a very enjoyable experience.
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