November 17, 2016
On the Quebec Accordionists club website there was mention of a recital being given by Alexander Sevastian. A quick look on the internet showed that he was a button accordion player who used a Russian made Jupiter Bayan free bass accordion. I was interested in attending and purchased a ticket!
The day of the event I knew traffic downtown Montreal would be horrendous thanks more to the ludicrous amount of construction the city of Montreal had decided to do in the downtown core (right where the recital would be held), so I knew that I would have to leave early!
The traffic proved to be even worse than I thought, and even leaving 2 hours early, I found myself in the area close to the time the doors would be opening. I must admit, I did find a good parking lot within 2 blocks of the location, and walked quickly to the location… which was the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, a beautiful building inside and out.
Getting there, I found that the doors would be opening in a few minutes, so I bought myself a beer and spent a little time on my cell phone looking up this artist. Alexander is a man from Belarus, but moved to Toronto Canada some 15 or so years ago. He sports a ton of musical awards, international competition wins and achievements and played with several Canadian and US symphonic orchestras. There are several YouTube videos of him and his musical skills are impressive.
The recital consisted mostly of all Russian music, except for one Estonian piece, and I quickly found myself entranced by the music. The thing that struck me right off the bat was the sound of the Bayan… it is very rich and it’s timber is far different from the Hohner Morino VI N that I know so intimately. The bass on the Bayan… it was just so powerful, almost overpowering the right hand whenever single reed registers were used, and when different registers with multiple reeds were chosen, the balance was just right, adding to the richness of the tones.
The recital lasted only an hour and the time just passed so quickly! The music was enthralling, magical and even though I never was a great fan of Russian music, I found myself enjoying it tremendously. Often I found my head moving in time to the music or a foot tapping to the beat. I also closely watched his hands, especially the left hand. You see, the free bass on a Bayan is different in that the notes are arranged in the opposite direction from the right hand, indeed, opposite from any other form of free bass in that the high notes are on the top going deeper as you move down, where on my accordion (and all other free bass instruments), the low notes were on the top and move higher as you move down, just like the right hand.
Trust a Russian to find a way to make a very complex system even more difficult… lol One thing that I noticed… in his style and choice of music, he used the Stradella bass a lot more often than I would have guessed, and this is a good thing, and he often used the chords without bass in Stradella mode instead of forming the chords manually in free bass mode (and why not, right?). All in all, a technically lovely and mesmerizing event for me, one that will live a long time in my memories.
I have to admit to a little something… I often use my cell phone to make voice notes so that I don’t forget, and I was making a note about things I wanted to do the following day while waiting for the event to start, and after I completed the note, I closed the app and set the phone to no sound (set all volume levels to zero), finished my beer and went in to the hall. What I did not notice, until the next day, was that I did not turn off the voice recording program, and I managed to capture on the phones mediocre recording mics, the entire concert! Now, it’s obviously of very low quality, but I now have a musical memory of the event all quite by happy accident! I downloaded the file from the phone, cut out all the useless sections at the start and end (and there were many hours of that… lol) and added a little EQ and compression to the file and the results were just good enough to have the file serve as a nice little memento of this wonderful evening.
Here is that file of the entire recital. I compressed and EQ’ed the file in several places to make it sound a bit better and to make his voice easier to understand a little (it should be obvious where I worked on the file).
This was the best “accordion night” out I have had in a long time!