Solo for two


A.Shirunov and N. Guseva, PRS-records, Russia, 2008 Works by: O.Messiaen, A.Piazzolla, P.Tchaikovsky, P.Makkonen, G.Gershwin, A.Shalaev, B.Precz, A.Astiér

quoteicon A typical Russian accordion jewel with solo qualities in a “double-pack”. Not to be missed!
Music: ★★★★★
Sound: ★★★★★

“You must place this CD in your collection, that is, if you wish to have access to some absolutely terrific accordion performances by two young musicians from St. Petersburg, Russia. Both players have won innumerable solo awards in addition to their duo work.

You will readily understand why when you listen to this recording. The CD jacket states: “They breathe as one and a duo becomes a ‘Solo for Two.'” You will not realize it is two players because of the outstanding musicianship displayed throughout.

My immediate reaction after listening to the very first piece on the CD was one of total respect. Their performance of the very difficult “Dieu parmi nous” which is No. 9 of Olivier Messiaen‘s “La nativité du Seigneur (Nine Meditations for Organ), written in 1935, will invite your awe.

It provides even more inspiration for the future and ever-expanding possibilities of the accordion when played by true artists. Alone, this one performance by these young musicians is worth the price of the complete CD. However, there are other pieces just as outstanding and equally exciting for the listener. Be sure to turn up the volume and you will believe it is the organ of La Sainte Trinité in Paris being played by the composer or by the famous organ virtuoso, Jehan Alain, in many of his concerts.

It is just a remarkable musical performance, one extremely demanding of the performers in every way. It is difficult to write about the performance without reference to the composer of the music, his life and contributions to the history of music. One could spend many hours studying the rhythms, based on ancient Indian theory, as well as the compositional techniques employed throughout by Messiaen who spent 11 years at the Paris Conservatoire, where he studied composition with Dukas and organ with Dupré. Yes, the composition “Dieu parmi nous” provides possibilities for intense musical study other than the pure joy of listening, which Shirunov and Guseva more than amply offer!

Now, on to the other repertoire on the CD: I must admit my great admiration, too, for the Polish composer Bogdan Precz (1960)-1996) who contributed the popular “3-3-2” to this recording. How fortunate the accordion repertoire is to have his compositions! The duo, once again, gives an exciting and impeccable performance of this great piece. Everything is there – the rhythmic accents, the driving energy, and the dynamic excitement, and if you are one to admire fine bellows action, you will recognize it throughout this piece.

The American composer, George Gershwin (1898-1937), gave us so much repertoire which has become well-known throughout the world. Many of them have been arranged or transcribed for other instruments such as unpretentious “Three Preludes for Piano” (1926) which were once arranged by the famous violinist Jascha Heifetz for the violin. It is this transcription upon which this performance by Shirunov and Guseva is based. The preludes are in a jazz idiom, but reveal the composer’s interest in presenting this material in a recognizable classical form. This is no “swing” interpretation; it is the one of jazz and blues during the 1920’s in which the pieces were written. (By the way, for those of you interested in such anecdotes: Heifetz had an accordion on which he learned to play a few pieces. The left hand, however, was outfitted with a piano keyboard. After the death of Heifetz, it was given to his very good friend, the well-known and most recorded accordionist and conductor in Hollywood, Carl Fortina, where it remains today.)

André Astier (1923-1994) provided much repertoire for accordionists to develop their technical dexterity. This duo performance of “La Tempête” will more than prove why it is so popular; it is a fitting manner in which to close the CD.

Every piece on the CD offers much to admire. The chosen registration is beautiful. For example, the piccolo reed in the Shalaev piece is absolutely exquisite. There are numerous similar instances throughout the recording where not only the selection of registers but, also, the manners in which they are employed tell us so much about these remarkably talented performers. The depth of interpretation is so readily shown throughout. Even in the bravura passages there is no strain. The dynamic ranges, whether the most delicate pianissimo or the grandest fortissimo, display careful attention.

Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992) is represented by the poetic “Ave Maria” and the arresting “Meditango” both of which exhibit the requisite passion and zeal. “March”, “Dance of the Sugar-plum Fairy”, and “Trepak,” three dances from the ballet suite “The Nutcracker”, Op. 71 by Piotr Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) are given superb performances. The “Trepak” is especially thrilling, perhaps due to the unusual rapidity displayed.

“Like Swans” by the contemporary Finnish composer, Petri Makkonen (1967), is ravishing in its beauty and ethereal spirit. It is one of the better compositions in the accordion repertoire of today. “Solo for Two” is a recording of many different styles of repertoire and one which provides a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience. The musicians, Alexander Shirunov and Nadia Guseva, are most outstanding”.

* Reviewed by Joan Cochran Sommers, President, Accordionists and Teachers Guild, International (USA) Nov. 25, 2008. See the original.









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