The Free-Reed Review
Critiques of Compact Discs, Books and Music Scores
Concert Review: Alphen Opus 2
First Unitarian Church, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania; April 27, 2000; 8:30 PM
Sergé Latychev, conductor
Review by Henry Doktorski:
I had been waiting two months for the Dutch classical accordion ensemble Alphen Opus 2 to perform in Pittsburgh. (The full story of how they came to the United States is explained in my review of their compact disc.) We met at the WQED-FM studios at noon for a live on-air interview and performance which was intended to publicize their concert at Pittsburgh's First Unitarian Church that evening.
When I arrived, the 13-piece ensemble was already setting up and the air in the normally tranquil studio was charged with excitement. I have visited and performed at the WQED-FM studios (Western Pennsylvania's largest classical music station) dozens of times, and I never saw such a buzz going on. A dozen employees, including station manager Jim Cunningham, were standing behind the big observation window observing the group warming up. This was really special: a renowned Dutch classical accordion ensemble performing in Pittsburgh.
Producer Paul Johnston interviewed Alphen Opus 2 spokesperson Peter Klaver, and the group performed several short selections from their concert program. Their on-air interview/performance was successful, as a full 50% of those who attended the concert later that evening said they heard about the orchestra on the radio.
Despite the excitement of the live radio broadcast, the evening concert was the climax for me. I was impressed by conductor Sergé Latychev's finesse and the ensemble's response to his subtle baton. Truly they were well-rehearsed, articulate, as well as lovers of great music.
The program was a joy to hear: transcriptions as well as original works written for the accordion. My favorite piece on the program was Rudolf Wuerthner's Variationen fuer Akkordeon-Orchester, a masterpiece which showcased the group's extensive tonal palette and technical abilities. Wuerthner was the conductor of the professional Hohner accordion orchestra of Germany, which toured in dozens of countries throughout the world. He also arranged and composed much music for the accordion orchestra. Just as a fine orchestral composer exploits the various tone colors of a symphony orchestra, Rudolf Wuerthner exploited the dozens of tone colors in the accordion symphony. And the fugue! Superb writing. I was in bliss.
The program was varied and interesting. The late romantic era was represented by transcriptions of the popular Asturias by Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909), as well as the organ work Cortège written by Louis Vierne (1870-1937), who served as the organist of Notre Dame in Paris.
The rest of their program was by twentieth-century composers. Of special mention was Divertimento Ritmico, written in 1988 by Wolfgang Russ-Plötz. It is a fascinating and attractive piece in 7/4 time which includes lots of percussion.
I was especially touched by a surprise piece which was not included in the printed program: Sweet Toot! written by myself! They performed the first three movements of the four movement suite. Although I was honored that they would perform this piece for me in concert, I must say that they still needed a bit more rehearsing! Nonetheless, the audience was extremely pleased by their warm expression of international friendship.
In conclusion, I strongly recommend that if you hear that Alphen Opus 2 is coming to any place within a day's driving distance of your residence, get in your car or hop on a bus or train to see them. You will love them.
Their full United States tour itinerary can be found at http://classicalaccordion.freeservers.com.
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