Reviews of A Classical Christmas
Henry Doktorski with the Pittsburgh Chamber Orchestra
THE WASHINGTON POST
To my mind, the most interesting instrumental collection of Christmas music this year is A Classical Christmas, featuring very imaginative arrangements of standard items by Henry Doktorski, who is also featured as accordion soloist with the Pittsburgh Chamber Orchestra. This one should surprise and delight musical sophisticates, who do not usually listen to the accordion. Its arrangements are not only cute and clever; they have real musical depth.
WQED-FM: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
All Classical All Day
Doktorski is truly a master musician in the traditional sense of the term. His original compositions are memorable, his arrangements are brilliant and imaginative, and his counterpoint well-crafted. His technique and musicality on the concert accordion have opened many eyes to the beauty and grace, sensitivity, power and dignity of a much misunderstood instrument.
Jim Cunningham, WQED-FM Station Manager
The flute has needed its Rampal, the oboe its Holliger, the guitar its Segovia to give those particular instruments visibility. Henry Doktorski has a passion for the concert accordion. His passion should go far to break down the prejudices against his instrument and to show its potential.
After hearing Henry perform, I was truly flabbergasted and, frankly, ashamed of my ignorance. I, who was a tuba student in college, should know better than to be hasty in stereotyping someone else's instrument.
As in other areas of life, one of the best defenses against prejudice is education. For the concert accordion, Henry Doktorski’s compact disc A Classical Christmas may just be the place to start.
Paul Johnston, WQED-FM Manager of Community Broadcasts
DETROIT FREE PRESS
Even accordion can make it in holiday classic
This is a real find. It’s a collection of some traditional holiday fare (12 Days of Christmas, Coventry Carol, Away in a Manger and such) in highly attractive and unusual arrangements that include an accordion. Don’t let that put you off. It’s really quite wonderful, with saucy settings of Jingle Bells and delicious variations on the Coventry Carol. Once you hear this one, it will be one of the most popular in your holiday collection.
THE MONTREAL HOUR
A Classical Christmas features the amazing talents of Henry Doktorski, one of the few concert accordionists performing today. No, really. This is serious, virtuoso stuff and about as far from oom-pah-pah kitsch as you can get. Doktorski is a classically trained organist and, indeed, the sounds he squeezes from his state-of-the-art instrument, nicknamed “the Stradivarius of accordions,” are of pipe-organ quality, with rich, deep bass notes worthy of any pedalboard. His performance of a difficult Bach Prelude and Toccata is nothing short of unbelievable.
No Accordion Jokes, Please
The accordion takes on an unexpected sophistication in a chamber trio on A Classical Christmas. Award-winning accordionist Henry Doktorski makes the instrument sound sometimes like woodwinds, other times like brass. Doktorski, composer, arranger and transcriber of the album, performs with Pittsburgh Symphony violinist and assistant concertmaster Huei-Sheng Kao and principal harpist Gretchen Van Hoesen. Also featured are the Pittsburgh Chamber Orchestra. The album combines well-known Christmas classics with several new holiday-themed works for an hour-plus of pleasant, even beautiful music.
LA PRESSE, Montreal
Noel en musique classique
Un Noel Tres Special/A Very Special Christmas. Henry Doktorski, accordeoniste, Huei-Sheng Kao, violiniste, Gretchen van Hoesen, harpiste, Pittsburgh Chamber Orchestra and Boychoir. Le “tres special” s’applique, de toute evidence, a la presence d’un accordeon “chantant” les airs familiers. L’ “orgue a bretelles” est traite ici discretement, musicalement mem, et l’ensemble est tranquille, reposant.
CHRONIQUE DU DISQUE
This recording by Henry Doktorski on concert accordion is such a fresh surprise. It is simply easy listening, a pleasurable experience. This Christmas, this is the album you should get. Something really different, this winter.
Don’t get turned-off by the perspective of an accordion album. This is it! An album you will enjoy performed on an instrument you normally never enjoy. You do not believe me? Listen to this! (excerpts from the CD are broadcast on the air)
Not many people think of the accordion when they think of Christmas carols, but here is a stylish classical record which will change your mind. Accompanied by the superb artistry of the Pittsburgh Chamber Orchestra and special guest artists, Huei-Sheng Kao on violin and Gretchen Van Hoesen on harp, Henry Doktorski will make a believer out of all who are fortunate enough to listen.
Doktorski skillfully blends the accordion with the music of the chamber orchestra to create a gentle, unique rendering of many classical favorites.
After a rather bold opening with the Twelve Days of Christmas, the record moves into the solemnity of Ave Maria and Silent Night quite smoothly. Add to this the majestic March of the Three Kings and a playful Jingle Bells and you discover that the world of the Christmas carol has been beautifully expanded through the sophistication and grace of the concert accordion.
The fresh approach to the traditional carol is heightened by the three original works, Sleep, Baby Jesus, Dance of the Shepherds, and Dance of the Angels, all of which are classics in their own right. This truly is an inspired and inspiring accomplishment, a must have for every Christmas season.
PHILADELPHIA STANDARD AND TIMES
Accordion Makes Magic Music
On a sparkling compact disc called A Classical Christmas, the accordion, long known on these shores for the aroma of wieners and stale beer, emits instead the sweet scent of fir trees and sugar plums. The magician/musician responsible for this miraculous transformation is Henry Doktorski, a true virtuoso of the accordion as well as a skilled composer, transcriber and arranger.
Joined by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s assistant concertmaster, violinist Huei-Sheng Kao, and principal harpist Gretchen Van Hoesen, and backed up by the Pittsburgh Chamber Orchestra, Doktorski offers 22 traditional and not-so-traditional Christmas items, ranging from the poignant Coventry Carol to the ubiquitous Jingle Bells.
Perhaps the most astonishing sample of Doktorski’s performing skills is his transcription for solo accordion of J.S. Bach’s prelude and toccata, in dulci jubilo (“Good Christian Men, Rejoice”). The prize for the most beautiful and unhackneyed selection must be shared by Doktorski’s three original compositions (his Sleep, Baby Jesus is outstanding) and his Suite of Four Polish Carols.
And of course there’s Stille Nacht, sounding somewhat as it must have sounded in that drafty choir loft where it was first performed by Joseph Mohr and Franz X. Gruber 175 years ago.
Both the digital sound and the highly informative booklet are exemplary.
Alanna Records, whose trilogy of Masses by Philip Green—in honor of St. Patrick and St. Francis of Assisi and “The Man from Galilee”—won critical acclaim and consumer favor in the past, has done it again.
The humble accordion will never be the same.
Quality Music recommended by The Public Radio Music Source
Christmas music performed on concert accordion? It's true.. and it's delightful. The Washington Post called this recording “the most interesting Christmas album this year.”
Doktorski’s classically inspired arrangements (Twelve Days of Christmas as a capriccio, Silent Night as a nocturne, Away in a Manger as a berceuse) are imaginative and original. A unique and satisfying experience.
GREAT CHRISTMAS MUSIC FROM WBJC 91.5 FM
I have a stack of my own holiday music CDs waiting to be played, but WBJC in Baltimore apparently has an endless supply of Christmas music that’s been holding my interest during the season. . . . This year, one that caught my ear which I hadn’t heard before was Henry Doktorski’s Suite on Four Polish Carols for accordion and strings, very engaging and ingenious.
An absolute delight. Your recording brings fresh new magic to the world of Christmas musical entertainment.
Weekly CD Reviews by Tania Lukic-Marx
As Christmas time is approaching, everybody is expecting to hear Christmas Carols everywhere you go and you know off by heart how they sound—the same every year, so at some point you stop even noticing them when you hear them. Isn’t it true!
Well, in front of me is a CD with Christmas Carols, performed by accordion, chamber orchestra and harp. I can assure you, however with this collection of Christmas Carols you WILL notice and pay attention when you hear them!
All the Carols were arranged, transcribed and composed with a lot of talent and good taste and performed by professionals of the highest standard. Although very delicate and clever work, highlighting the details very well, what amazes me is the general sound of the ensemble: it is so sophisticated and musically solid! Very rarely will you ever hear the accordion in combination with the harp, and this original duet formation sounds very interesting and warm.
This recording certainly is an amazing tapestry of Christmas Carols!
Dear Henry, Thanks for doing the interview. We took two-dozen calls right after it aired from people who wanted to know how to get the CD.
Lorraine Goodrich, Producer
TONI CHARUHAS MEEKINS
author of the book The Accordion (Pietro Deiro Publications: 1955)
Dear Henry, I have been playing your Christmas CD over and over again. I never get tired of listening to it. It’s my favorite Christmas CD. I want to order three for gifts. Rather than sending me an order blank, let me know the total cost by e-mail and I will send you a check immediately.
THE CLASSICAL ACCORDION SOCIETY OF CANADA
An unorthodox, interesting CD, professionally done.
Secretariat of State
First Section - General Affairs
Dear Mr. Doktorski,
His Holiness Pope John Paul II has received your letter and the Christmas gift of your compact disc that you sent to him and he has asked me to send this acknowledgment.
His Holiness appreciates your taking the time to write to him and he thanks you for your musical offering. He invokes upon you the grace and peace of God.
Monsignor L. Sandri
ACCORDION TEACHERS’ GUILD INTERNATIONAL
In his search for some unique and interesting arrangements of Christmas music, Mr. Doktorski discovered a wonderful anthology of artistic arrangements written in a rich, contrapuntal style. To his surprise and delight, this superb collection, entitled Christmas Holiday was masterfully arranged by Dr. Willard A. Palmer. With Dr. Palmer’s permission, Mr. Doktorski expanded and orchestrated several of the works for this recording. The album is a must for the Christmas holiday.
ACCORDION WORLD MAGAZINE
A Christmas album with a difference! This 73 minute and 17 second CD culminates an incredible effort by Doktorski to produce an outstanding Christmas album which has been praised by many music critics. Doktorski has chosen a repertoire of internationally well known Christmas melodies and given them a classical touch with arrangements for free bass instruments.
All the music is composed, arranged or transcribed by Doktorski with the able help of Bill Palmer. Titles include, Capriccio on Twelve Days of Christmas, Ave Maria, Stille Nacht, Farandole, March of the Three Kings, Away in a Manger, Jazz Fantasia on Carol of the Bells, plus many more.
One in particular, Sleep, Baby Jesus, composed by Doktorski is particularly beautiful.
Doktorski is accompanied by the Pittsburgh Chamber Orchestra with two prominent members of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, violinist Huei-Sheng Kao and harpist Gretchen Van Hoesen. The recording is professionally done and nicely balanced. Rather than Doktorski’s accordion dominating the whole album, often the accordion supports the orchestra, blending with both the violin, harp and other instruments tastefully.
Together with Willard “Bill” Palmer, Henry has created not only an eminently enjoyable listening experience truly demonstrating what two hands can really do to appropriately showcase the accordion, but also has produced some excellent examples of bass arrangements for free bass students and performers. We would suggest writing to Henry to persuade him to market these arrangements so they can be added to free bass players concert programs.
Closet Accordion Players of America
Concert Accordionist Henry Doktorski sent me a tape of his Christmas music just before I left to spend the holidays in the mountains with a group of people I would not describe as accordion fans (except for my husband, who is fast overcoming his former prejudices). I took along the tape and slipped it in among a lot of other Christmas tapes. After listening to Christmas albums by Manheim Steamroller, Bing Crosby, Willie Nelson and Luciano Pavarotti, we heard A Classical Christmas by Doktorski.
Quite simply, I loved it. Even more surprisingly, I heard several comments about the “beautiful Christmas music” from members of our group. I pointed out, quietly, of course, that they had been listening to accordion music.
All right, maybe I wasn’t that quite about it. I need to take every opportunity I can to break down accordion prejudice. It may be rather early to start thinking about Christmas, but you may want to send for a copy now anyway, before you forget.
Dear Mr. Doktorski,
A Classical Christmas is a delight and brightened our holiday programming with its fresh arrangements and lovely original compositions. And it certainly increased our appreciation of the accordion as a “serious” instrument.
I thank you particularly for the Suite on Four Polish Carols which includes the only recording I’ve encountered of one of my favorites: Lulajze Jesuniu. Please keep us in mind for future releases."
Needham Heights, Massachusetts
Dear Mr. Doktorski,
I ordered six compact discs of your A Classical Christmas album for gifts. I heard it on WBVR in Boston. I fell in love with the Suite on Four Polish Carols. My parents were both Polish immigrants and my mother used to hum many of those beautiful songs as she went about her daily tasks. Hearing your album brought back beautiful memories.
ROCCO A. JERRY
I love your A Classical Christmas CD. Last week, my fiancee heard your Capriccio being broadcast on 91.5, a classical music station in Baltimore. It’s a very conservative station, and it was very nice to hear the accordion on it, possibly for the first time.
Concert Accordionist, Composer, Arranger, Lecturer, Teacher
San Marcos, California
Your compact disc A Classical Christmas was received a few days ago and what a pleasure it was for Mrs. Galla-Rini and I to sit down and listen to it all. What a glorious contribution this CD is to our existing recordings of music dedicated to the Yuletide holiday.
All of the musicians involved in this presentation are to be congratulated on their display of fine musicianship. In particular, you are to be congratulated for skillfully adding the accordion in an identifiable manner while always blending in fine quality with the other instruments in the ensemble.
All of the music chosen, arrangements and compositions, are inspirational—especially Ave Maria.
Our mutual friend, Dr. Willard Palmer, is also to be congratulated for his contributions in various ways throughout all of the music.
Your performance of in dulci jubilo is masterful, comparing very favorably with the Grand Organ. The Silent Night, Holy Night was never played more beautifully by any other soloist or ensemble; the Farandole by Bizet is positively exhilarating, as is also the Jazz Fantasia on Carol of the Bells in which the jazz flavor fits in nicely—and just enough.
The Baroque ornamentations in Coventry Carol come through very skillfully on the accordion. You played it masterful. This also goes for your three fine compositions, the Serenade, Minuet and Gigue. You have presented the accordion with the same dignity as has been identified with other classical instruments.
I could go on and on. In my humble way, may I again congratulate you and all of your colleagues in this inspired presentation.
THOMAS H. McGOUGH
Dear Mr. Doktorski,
I am an accordionist. One night back in January I had the radio on while I was doing something in the kitchen. It was the classical music station I like to listen to, located at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. The call letters are WFIU-FM. In fact, it was January 10 (I wrote it down).
Anyway, they played this hauntingly beautiful song... and I stopped doing the dishes, and said to myself “that sounds like maybe it’s an accordion.” I listened really hard, but I couldn’t be sure! I have heard so many accordion tapes that I was sure I’d be able to tell. But, right up to the end, I debated with myself “yes, this is an accordion.. well, maybe it’s some kind of an organ... no, it’s an accordion...”
So, I listened very carefully when the announcer said it was an accordion. It was you playing the Coventry Carol —“lu lee lu lay.” It had to be the most absolutely beautiful thing I have ever heard on an accordion.
Listening to you play has given me hope and confirms my own personal feeling that the accordion is the most beautiful sounding instrument there is!
Thanks for letting the world know how beautiful an accordion can sound!
A fan of yours,
Graduate School of Music
I am delighted beyond words, but hardly surprised, by your seemingly sudden rash of success. Frankly, this news merely reflects your work ethic, combined with your intuitive musical gifts, both of which have been developed by you to an exceedingly high level for many years. I am unbelievably proud of these achievements; and I am even more proud of Henry as a contributing member of the human family.
As always, you carry my very best wishes, along with my thanks for all that you have done for the Duquesne musical community.
UNIVERSITY OF DENVER
Lamont School of Music
Thank you for your Xmas CD. I have listened, several times, to this excellent and varied repertoire and enjoyed all of your arrangements/compositions and performance. You have added to a small but important library of accordion works which offer a refined and musical exposure for this instrument.
Professor of Theory & Accordion
Accordionist for The Lawrence Welk Orchestra
Rolling Hills, California
Keep up the good work on the accordion. We trust you young players to keep the accordion alive and well.
WILLARD “BILL” PALMER
Co-Author of the Palmer-Hughes Accordion Method
I really like the recordings, particularly the Christmas Sonatina. I would think that quite a few people would be interested in obtaining this album for the Christmas season.
Sincerely your friend,
Willard A. Palmer, Ph.D.
Senior Keyboard Editor for Alfred Publishing Co., Inc.
Swedish Concert Accordionist
Your CD is very nice. I enjoyed every minute of it. Beautiful repertoire, very well played. The arrangements are also outstanding.
Thank you very much for sending me your brilliant Christmas CD!
I’ve had the CD for three days now and the timing was perfect since I’ve got some days on my own now when my girlfriend and our daughter is on vacation.
I’ve listened to the CD at least 10 times and I’m rather tired. Not tired OF listening but BECAUSE of listening. I just have to listen again and again and again....
I love your beautiful arrangements and the selection of tunes and instruments is perfect! I don’t cry much but it’s very difficult not to when listening to your music!
I usually only like two or three of the tracks on a CD but your CD is different. I love every single track! I'm going to listen to this a lot and not just for Christmas.
I used to listen a lot to the organ works of Bach and Handel. The free-bass accordion is perfect for this kind of music which you prove in the Prelude and Toccata.
When I heard Carol of the Bells I knew that I’ve heard it before. After a while I realized that it was from a computer game! I’ve experienced this once before with Debussy’s Golliwog’s Cake Walk (Children’s Corner). I don't think that many kids know what they’re listening to when they're playing those games!
I love your own compositions, especially the Serenade: Sleep, Baby Jesus. This is one of the most beautiful tunes I’ve ever heard. The first thought that occurred in my mind was that it reminded me of the Cavatina. If you had been asked instead of John Williams, your tune would have been as famous as the Cavatina! (I could play the Cavatina fairly well on the guitar once).
I may have more comments later but now I must play your CD again...
Kansas City, Kansas
Well, sir, I continue to thoroughly enjoy your CDs. As for the Christmas recording, I love it. I have a soft spot in my heart for good Christmas music, sacred & secular. I'm especially moved by your Serenade for the Baby Jesus. I want you to know that, whatever your intent, that piece inspires a sense of awe & worship. After all, what a thing for God to do! If I close my eyes & listen, I almost feel like I’m in that stable somewhere behind the inn in Bethlehem.
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