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Solo performance of the top accordionist Boris Lenka – piano transcription
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Domenico Scarlatti (1685 – 1757)
Sonata E Major K. 135 L. 224 Allegro
Sonata D Major K. 435 L. 361 Allegro
Sonata C Major K. 513 L. S 3 Moderato e Molto allegro – Presto
Sonata F Major K. 44 L. 432 Allegro
Sonata D Major K. 177 L. 364 Andante
Sonata C Major K. 132 L. 457 Cantabile
Sonata C Major K. 200 L. 54 Allegro
Sonata E Major K. 380 L. 23 Andante comodo
Sonata G Major K. 427 L. 286 Presto quanto sia possibile
Franz Joseph Haydn (1732 – 1809)
Piano Sonata No. 38 in F Major, Hob. XVI: 23
III. Finale. Presto
Piano Sonata No. 43 in E ﬂat Major, Hob. XVI: 28
I. Allegro moderato
III. Finale. Presto
Total time: 65,40
This disc contains two active parties. On one side is the CD Audio and DVD Audio on the other.
CD SIDE – CD AUDIO
DVD SIDE – DVD AUDIO
ADVANCED RESOLUTION SURROUND SOUND 48 kHz/24 bit
ADVANCED RESOLUTION Stereo SOUND 48 kHz/24 bit
Why does a musician play Scarlatti’s and Haydn’s piano sonatas on an accordion? The obvious answer would be: because he is able to do so. And also because the accordion is an instrument that suits the nature of these sonatas. Nevertheless, the sonatas were written for the harpsichord. Furthermore, the divide between harpsichord and concert grand piano is as great as between harpsichord and accordion. But to understand this you have to play the accordion like Boris Lenko plays it.
He started at the age of six. His parents in Dolný Kubín, Slovakia regarded music as a standard part of education; his sister played the piano and his father played the accordion. Thus, there was an accordion in the house, although when Lenko’s musical interests began to emerge, his parents had not the slightest clue that they would be buying a further six instruments in the course of the coming years. Boris Lenko says he was not a gifted child. Well, that is his opinion; nevertheless, he also played the piano, learning the same pieces that his sister played. He was unaware of the fact that Khatchaturian’s music is demanding. Accordion, of course, was his primary interest. When he was thirteen his teacher told him he could give him nothing more, Boris was better than him.
By chance, he wanted to buy a new accordion from a professor at the conservatory and the professor asked Boris to play for him. Boris made no impression on him. Before leaving, the professor asked whether Boris also played the piano. Boris played for him. The professor was inspired, declaring that Boris was a genius and that he should study with him. But Boris stuck to the accordion.
His playing started to create a stir when he entered the conservatory, yet people kept asking why he had to play that silly instrument. Why not a more appropriate one? Boris Lenko won his ﬁrst prizes and went on to study at the Academy of Music and Drama in Bratislava. At the age of twenty-ﬁve he was already an assistant and today he still teaches there as a lecturer. In a short time he may become a professor. Why not, says Lenko who lives between Munich and Bratislava.
When it comes to the accordion, one immediately thinks of folklore. Boris Lenko does not. His father played jazz, collected all jazz records he could ﬁnd in Czechoslovakia at that time, and played trombone in a jazz combo. After his death, Boris inherited the jazz archive. From time to time he also plays jazz with friends in various clubs. Basically, there are two notions of the accordion. One, rather stuffy idea is that the accordion is at home in folk music and the other idea that it is full of life and fresh air, living on the pedestrian zones of German towns. People on the streets are fascinated by its virtuosity; in fact the image is quite correct. Many consider the Russian school ideal, when it comes to accordion. Ninety percent of the pieces, says Lenko, are virtuoso compositions perfectly suited for the accordion – and they are very bad. Broad melodies based on folklore and a lot of bellows shaking. Many accordionists, not from Russia, try to copy this effective style. When they play at competitions, everything works ﬁne until the Russians arrive. The Russians win almost every time.
Boris Lenko rejects the idea of trying to succeed in a domain, in which he does not feel at home. At times, when he is frustrated by the way his instrument is exploited, he argues that most accordionists are ignorant of the possibilities of this instrument. This pride has something to do with Lenko’s roots. In Russia, as in many German music academies, the accordion is part of the folk music department (no contempt intended here). In Slovakia, it is part of the keyboard instruments (organ, piano, harpsichord) department.
Beside the world of accordion virtuosos educated in the Russian school, there is a different, unknown one. Boris Lenko feels at home in this world, as do musicians like Hugo Noth, Teodoro Anzellotti or composers like Soﬁa Gubaidulina, Mauricio Kagel, Luciano Berio, Wolfgang Rihm, Salvatore Sciarrino or Hans Zender. Contemporary, living composers. Whereas a normal’ accordion recital comprises Bach, Scarlatti and entertaining virtuoso pieces, waltzes and folk tunes. Lenko strove for more. At the age of thirty he gave his ﬁrst Bratislava recital with music by Berio, John Zorn and living Slovak composers. It attracted attention. Composers started to write pieces for him. He did not have to transcribe anymore, the material was created for the accordion. For a long time he played exclusively contemporary music.
It may come as a surprise then that, for this CD, Boris Lenko chose music by Scarlatti and Haydn, and not by contemporary composers who have written pieces for him. These recordings were inspired in a Munich salon where Lenko performed them together with music by John Zorn. Apart from the fact that contemporary music for the accordion is still a matter for experts, the intention was to make his style of playing more transparent. With contemporary music, it is difﬁcult because the listener lacks comparison; with Haydn and Scarlatti, Lenko lays bare his style, making it accessible to the broad public because people can compare it with recordings of this music performed on harpsichord or modern piano.
Boris Lenko believes in this CD. Maybe there is something of a missionary inside him. He plays the accordion as if it were the piano, thus giving the instrument its self-conﬁdence, which it deserves. Lenko sees no point in trying to achieve the obvious effect – to treat accordion as an organ, to apply busy ﬁnger work to all six registers and create a seductively big sound. On this recording, he uses only a single register; the bellows take care of the rest. It is inﬁnitely harder than to activate all registers, for one has to breathe with the instrument. Bellows are like the violin bow, they are the soul, and they give music its plasticity and scope. No gimmicks, no tricks. Just as on the harpsichord you can achieve dynamic effects only with the help of certain devices, like shades that allow stepwise changes of the sound volume, Lenko relinquishes large-scale dynamics that are available through the use of various registers, which, by the way, provides an easy way of hiding the player’s faults. Lenko’s play is pure and the music radiates with transparency. You hear no heavy breathing, not a single distracting breath interfering with the music. Yet it still remains the accordion – a warm, earthly instrument with a sound that somehow soothes us. As if you took the harpsichord and painted its mechanic harshness with bright colours.
This said, dynamic shading is possible on the accordion. Lenko admires pianists like Horowitz with his effortless style. The plastic treatment of each tone in this music would be wrong, given the fact that it was composed for the harpsichord with its sound, possibilities and range. Although accordionists regularly turn to romantic music by Brahms and Chopin, this kind of transfer is for Boris Lenko absurd. It is not the attempt to imitate the modern grand piano – an attempt, which is doomed considering only the instrument’s range. It is to play on the accordion as a pianist, to play such music that can be played on it, with regard to the dynamic nuances of the bellows, even better than on the harpsichord. And it works with Scarlatti’s compositional aphorisms – an idea is stated and the sonata reaches its end – as well as with Haydn’s melodic and animated variations.
Lenko’s vision is that this recording will not be listened to with a friendly not bad for an accordion’ recognition, but instead, it will be listened to next to the great pianists playing this music. He would deserve such a reception. He made a great effort just to ﬁnd the appropriate instrument to facilitate the light touch and basses of not too overwhelming bass register. Finally, he had to prepare himself for his carefully picked instrument. And so, Haydn’s accompanying voices have all the subtlety and sensitivity they need. The music ﬂies. Through light and darkness. Had Haydn heard this, he would have asked his count and benefactor for an accordion.
Joseph Haydn was a master of laconic and witty Presto-Finali. The fresh magic and stupendous brilliance, with which Boris Lenko has mastered on his accordion precisely these fast movements, can prove to be a pleasant experience for the surprised listener. Domenico Scarlatti’s brilliant moments suit the performer very well. It is a question of taste – whether you consider Scarlatti a Chopin of the 18th century or just a brilliant Baroque composer – how to evaluate the marriage of accordion’s fresh tone with Scarlatti’s melos.
Prof. Dr. Joachim Kaiser
Recorded at Thurzo House, Banská Bystrica
Recorded in February 2010 • Accordion: Scandalli
Recording, Mastering (24 bit/192 kHz)
Production and Distribution: PAVLÍK RECORDS
Recording equipment: DAD AX24 Mic Preamp and Converter System, DPA 4041, 4006 and 4011 Microphones •
Music producer: Boris Lenko • Sound engineer: Rostislav Pavlík Texts: © Egbert Tholl, Prof. Dr. Joachim Kaiser
Translation: © Peter Zagar
Photos: © Pavel Kastl • Layout: © Martin Vojtek
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