Bandonéon Basics with Phillips Music

Street Tango. Buenos Aires, La Boica 2011

I love when Phillips Music gets its hands on a musical instrument we’ve never featured before! This Sunday, we will have classical guitarist Jason Vieaux performing with Julien Labro, who is proficient in playing the accordion and bandonéon. Naturally this raises the question, to most of us, what is a bandonéon?

A bandonéon, in fact, is a type of concertina. Similar to the accordion, it is played by holding the instrument between both hands and pushing in or pulling out, while pressing the buttons with the fingers. Unlike an accordion, however, these buttons all correlate to individual notes, and so chords are played by pressing combinations of buttons at the same time. Bandonéons are often square or hexagonal in shape with beveled edges and unusually long bellows. I’ve found a decent photo of one (caption below) and a video with a very familiar refrain—La Cumparsita (when I think of tango, this is what I hear in my head).

Kathryn Rogge, Manager of Academic Programs & Phillips Music

Unforgettable Evening with Emanuel Ax

Emanuel Ax photo_Daniel Schwartz

Photo: Daniel Schwartz

Huge thanks to the folks at PianoCraft for helping Phillips Music stay in tune this concert season! This beautiful Steingraeber grand they lent us for the 75th anniversary Emanuel Ax benefit concert made the evening unforgettable. Mr. Ax sat at the freshly-tuned piano for no more than 15 seconds to warm up, hammered out a heap of chords and scales, and proclaimed: “perfect, I’m ready now.” PianoCraft, thank you for never letting us miss a single note this season.

Caroline Mousset, Music Director

Première at the Camp: 75 Years Ago Today

In July 1940, Olivier Messiaen was among the thousands of French soldiers rounded up by the Germans and transported to Stalag VIII-A. In this prisoner camp, he composed one of the most remarkable works to have come out of World War II, Quatuor pour la fin du temps (Quartet for the End of Time). Only a clarinet, a violin, a cello missing a string, and an upright piano of which the keys stuck at random were available to play the work.

With snow on the ground and rooftops, the première of the Quatuor took place on January 15, 1941 at 6 pm, in front of an audience of approximately 5,000 prisoners—farm workers, laborers, intellectuals, career soldiers, doctors, and priests.

HPMoon provided photo archival

Still picture from the documentary film “Quartet for the End of Time”

Earlier in Phillips Music’s 75th season, musicians from “The President’s Own” US Marine Corps Band offered a chilling rendition of the Messiaen’s Quatuor. Excerpted here are the final moments, performed by SSgt Karen Johnson and SSgt Christopher Schmitt, captured on film by H. Paul Moon of Zen Violence Films. Echoing a documented account of the audience’s reaction to the 1941 première, a moment of silence followed the final notes, establishing the profundity of the work, both then and now.