Galliano takes the accordion to Vivaldi

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Backstage in Paris euronews caught up with the celebrated musician Richard Galliano to discuss his love affair with the classical accordion.

It has been a relationship, albeit once conducted in secret, which goes back many years:

“It might sound surprising but I’ve always played classical music on the accordion, since the age of 20, 21,” he says, “ but it’s something very different to play on stage. I was scared of, I guess what you would call, stage fright. Tonight, I did what I have been terrified of doing ever since I was 20 years old, and I played classical in concert. My first idea was to play the music of Bach, because his style fits the easiest with the accordion. Sometimes I even feel as if Bach were written for the accordion. I started by playing the solo part, that is usually played by the flute, the oboe, or the harpsichord. Then I turned to Vivaldi. This was because, even though Vivaldi is very difficult music to play, even on the violin, the accordion has great range.”

Even so, how does Galliano feel Vivaldi or Bach would react to his interpretation?

“I’d like to think that it would please them because it is just another way of giving new meaning to their music. With music that’s so well known, you have to take a risk to get the most out of it. You can’t be scared to take it out of the comfort zone,” he says.

The star also pays tribute to his mentor, Astor Piazolla, mixing his four seasons in tango, to chime with Vivaldi’s classic.

“Astor Piazzola was influenced by Vivaldi, and developed the same structure in his tango pieces. Here, we find the same format, the same search for melody,” insists Galliano.

Violin virtuoso Jean Marc Phillips Varjabedian is proud to say he was there at the birth of Galliano’s current ensemble.

“It’s been over 25 years since we first met. At the time I had a chamber orchestra, so I invited Richard to play some classical pieces with us. I think it was more or less his first experience doing this…I was a fan of Piazzola and we had the idea of ​​creating a tango. So Richard started writing transcripts for a set. And that’s how this adventure began…There’s always been a place for the accordion in classical music. Not least because the accordion was invented to replace the kind of small organ, which was played in private concerts. Its normal to play classical accordion in Russia, for example. In the West, we were a bit behind the Russians on this. But I think its a good thing that a big star, like Richard, shows how well the accordion can work with Bach, or Vivaldi,” says Varjabedian.

Galliano and his ensemble are currently playing their Vivaldi set as part of a world tour.