Romano Viazzani, one of the finest modern maestros of the accordion, released three solo accordion albums in 2007 on the ZZ Double Zed Music label. They should really be regarded as a 'boxed set', although each album is completely self-contained and works perfectly well on its own. Encore is the one in this series that we are concerned with here, and the other two albums, also reviewed, are Piazzolla - Ángel Suite / Bobiç - Liturgical Suite and Viazzani takes Stok.
Together, the three albums present a wonderful variety of musical styles and a veritable feast of music per se, not to mention for the connoisseur of accordion music. These solo accordion albums by Viazzani have been long overdue, although he could of course be heard on two earlier albums with his own then ensembles, still available from ZZ Music, L'Orchestra Rara - I Primi 15 Anni (1995 - Cassette Only) and The High Society Dance Orchestra - Steps in Time (2000), as well as of course, best-known perhaps, on two albums with modern jazz giant Gilad Atzmon's extended Orient House Ensemble, Exile and Musik. But here, at last, we have three outstanding solo accordion albums by Viazzani, extending the relatively sparse catalogue of modern accordion recordings. It is fervently to be hoped that we will see more of the young maestro's recordings soon. What a pity the BBC so far never released a recording of the premiere of Romano Viazzani's accordion concerto, Valceno, performed by Viazzani himself with the BBC Concert Orchestra under Nick Davies at the 2001 London Accordion Festival.
The present recordings, it has to be noted, are also distinguished by the sheer technical quality of the recordings themselves. The richest and the most subtle, delicate sounds of Viazzani's beautiful, mighty Beltrami CVP7 piano accordion are captured with equal clarity and perfection. A real marvel in itself. You have to hear Viazzani live to fully appreciate how well the sound has been captured here. As if any excuse were needed - you really ought to hear this incredibly versatile master live, period.
As noted, the album reviewed here is Encore. The nine exquisite and very personal selections here represent a wonderful diversity and include two Viazzani originals. The others are works by Richard Galliano, who has contributed hugely to rekindling general interest in accordion music, "New Romantics" pop artist Paul Weller (from his days in the 1980s with The Style Council), Joseph Colombo / Tony Mureno, Tango legend Carlos Gardel, Julio Cesar Sanders, Astor Piazzolla, and Gigi Stok / Niccolò Paganini.
Like the other two albums in this "set", Romano Viazzani's Encore is brilliantly consistent and sparklingly brilliant throughout. Like its companions, it is also utterly mesmerising, not merely compelling. It delights heart, soul and ear in equal measure.
The opening Tango Pour Claude by Richard Galliano is a worthy tribute to the composer and sets the lofty standards of excellence that are maintained throughout this album. Viazzani beautifully brings out the combination of classical, jazz, Tango and Musette influences so characteristic of Galliano, as well as the somewhat melancholy mood. Paul Weller's Party Chambers, originally an instrumental on The Style Council's À Paris EP, is a gently driving swing waltz with a strong swinging sixties psychedelia feel, given the superb Viazzani treatment, who manages at times to make his accordion sound uncannily Hammond-like. The Paris Match is a Weller song from the same EP that works superbly with Viazzani's instrumental treatment.
The first of the two Viazzani originals, Baba Bossa, started life as a song back in 1989 and makes for a supreme solo accordion piece. A lively, swinging bossa, it is almost impossible to get out of your head. One of the most archetypal Musette waltzes, the Joseph Colombo and Tony Murena-penned Indifference, here receives a more contemporary supreme swing-musette treatment at Viazzani's hands, in a tradition stretching back to 1930s swing-musette pioneer Gus Viseur.
The mini medley of traditional Argentinian tangos by the revered tango singer legend Carlos Gardel, Por Una Carbosa, and Julio Cesar Sanders, Adios Muchachos, is given a perfect accordion interpretation by Viazzani. The perfect blend of passion and restraint, even disdain, is enhanced with the relative freedom of tempo that it should be played with, traditionally. This medley provides the perfect complement to Galliano's modern French approach to the tango and Piazzolla's nuevo tango, also included on this album.
The second of the Viazzani originals, Corbieres & Croissants, is a delightful musette swing waltz, the result of the influences of accordionists like Gus Viseur, Joss Basselli and Marcel Azzola. This composition is as memorable and outstanding as its performance.
One of Astor Piazzolla's more sombre compositions, Adios Nonino, an old personal favourite Piazzolla here (alongside Michelangelo '70 and Libertango), is rendered to breathtaking perfection here by Viazzani. Finally, the mood changes to more playful and joyous again with Gigi Stok's variations on Paganini's Il Carnevale di Venezia, Variazioni su Il Carnevale di Venezia. A perfect closer for this wonderfully eclectic selection of pieces.
The sleeve notes, here in English only, provide excellent background information on the selections.
Romano Viazzani's Encore is a mature album displaying the kind of virtuosic and interpretative excellence of this true maestro of the accordion that's hard to match. Surely beyond essential in any accordion or general good music collection. Encore, maestro, please!
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