By Johanna Wilson
Featured in the 2016 Summer Issue of Accordion Life Today.
When we pick up a piece of music and sit down to learn or play it on our accordion, a couple of things catch our eye immediately, including who wrote it. But just like a quarter note is meaningless to someone who doesn’t understand, it’s the same way I feel when I see a composer’s name but don’t know who they are. So, we will learn about some of these people together. The amazing music we play were created by some pretty incredible composers.
The Great Vivaldi
If we rewind a little bit (and by a little I mean about 300 years) we find some remarkable composers that we will be discussing. One is Antonio Vivaldi, or Vivaldi for short. He was born March 4, 1678 in Venice, Italy. He died on July, 28 1741 in Vienna, Austria. He is recognized as one of the greatest Baroque composers. And if you’re like me and have no idea what “Baroque composers”
actually means, then let me enlighten you. Baroque was characterized by ornate detail and was popular from 1600 to circa 1750. So this composer was and is very special.
Though Vivaldi is not here physically, his music lives on. One of his most famous concertos is, The Four Seasons. It was originally composed for the violin and other instruments. Violin was Vivaldi’s first and favorite instrument and he normally composed specifically for it. Even though we play his pieces now and call him a genius, sadly, his popluarity sprung quickly and vanished even quicker after his death. But in 1926, in a monastery in Piedmont, 14 folios of Vivaldi’s work were discovered which started a spark that led to a blaze. Going through life without hearing one of his pieces is a big feat. If you haven’t, stop reading this article (yes I’m serious), Google the Four Seasons by Vivaldi (my favorite being Winter) and listen. Check out the accordionists performing below to hear Winter and Storm!
Modern Classical Semionov
If we skip forward a little (about another 300 years), we meet a man who is changing accordion history right before our eyes. His name is Viatcheslav Semionov. He was born in 1946 in Trubchevsk, Bryansk in Russia. Following in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps, he began playing the chromatic accordion at age 7. (He must have been really adorable sitting with his accordion.If I had a picture I would show you.) Moving forward (and not by 300 years), we see he continued his studies at the Rostov Art College and the Gnessins’ Musical Pedagogical Institute in Moscow, Russia.
At just 21 years of age he started taking part in accordion competitions in Germany and Bulgaria, in which he placed in the top three. He has performed in more than 30 countries. I would name them all but that would take the rest of the article. 🙂 He started teaching accordion so he could share all that he learned at the Rostov Musical Pedagogical Institute. Some of his most famous students include Yuri Shishkin, Anatoliy Zaikin and Youri Dranga.
Awards & Acclaim
While teaching he earned many titles and awards, including: “Honoured Artist of Russia,” Vice President of the Music Committee of the Confederation Internationale des Accordeonistes, earned his professorship (so its Professor Viatchelsav Semionov), was awarded the Silver Disk, and he was awarded the highest possible honor, “People’s Artist of Russia,” by President Boris Yeltsin.
He is a remarkable man who has accomplished so much and will continue to accomplish much more. Some of his most popular pieces are First Sonata, Four Rhapsody, Sonata No. 2, and Don Rhapsody. They are amazing pieces and one day you may learn them yourself!
Check out the videos below for a sample of some of his compositions for the accordion. Including one performed by Semionov himself!
Viatcheslav Semionov performs his own composition, Don Rhapsody.
I hope this article provided you some new-found knowledge and you are excited to learn more about composers that lived 300 years ago as much as you like learning about contemporary composers. Amazing people create the incredible music we love to play. Go be inspired!