There's an accordion renaissance happening, if new releases are anything to go by: Richard Galliano has recorded Vivaldi's Four Seasons and Ksenija Sidorova has released a new classical accordion album called Fairy Tales.
Now accordion virtuoso Alexander Sevastian is turning his sights on the sultry tango. CBC Music is pleased to offer a First Play of Tango Dreams, Sevastian's newest release, out Oct. 1. The album is available for download on Analekta's website.
Stream Alexander Sevastian's Tango Dreams until Tuesday, Oct. 1.
“When it comes to tango music, especially in the classical world, people think about one composer, Astor Piazzolla,” says Sevastian. “And as much as I respect him, I try to bring something different.”
The recording includes no fewer than five tangos by Piazzolla, but it also includes tango classics like La Cumparsita, a Russian tango, and even a contemporary piece, Tango Dreams, by Canadian composer Ray Luedeke.
“I just try to bring something new,” he says.
Sevastian is an Olympian of the accordion, having won countless international competitions, including the Coupe Mondiale in Washington, D.C. He was born in Minsk, Belarus. His father was his first accordion teacher and he eventually went on to study in Moscow, where Sevastian became a soloist with the Russian Folk Orchestra.
He came to Canada in 2001 and has been forging a career as soloist and chamber musician here ever since. Not afraid to have some fun, he also performs as part of the wacky ensemble Quartetto Gelato.
Sevastian admits there is not a lot of standard repertoire for the accordion, so he plays a mix of arrangements of classical music like Bach and Mozart, and contemporary music, much of which he has commissioned himself.
Tango seemed a natural choice for Sevastian’s latest recording, as the music appeals to such a wide audience. And the Belarusian doesn’t have any problem relating to the passionate temperament of the Argentinian tango.
“There are some pieces on that album that I particularly like, like Adios Nonino and La Cumparsita. They have a great emotion, a great passion, so it means a lot. If you ever feel in love, that music expresses probably the best emotion of love.”
While his instrument is very popular in Russia, it still isn’t mainstream in classical circles in Canada. But Sevastian has lots of reasons to love the accordion.
“There is a lot to bring because the instrument is underestimated and there are not too many good recordings and not too much good music written for it. So I feel like I am a pioneer to a certain extent, and that’s a great thing.
“Also, when I play, it’s like an instrument that I’m hugging so it’s a very personal relationship, like you’re hugging a woman, you’re hugging your instrument as well, so that’s the fun part."
“And I like the sound," he continues. "The sound is very much like breathing. It doesn’t die after you press a note. You can expand the bellows and it has life, you can play louder. You hit the note on the piano and that’s pretty much it. After you hit the note on the accordion, it has the natural breath of a human."
Alexander Sevastian's Tango Dreams will be released on the Analekta label on Oct. 1.