Gubaidulina De Profundis
This is more than a recital: it’s a demonstration of all the remarkable things that the accordion can do in the hands of a virtuoso. Complex polyphony (the modern instrument effectively has two keyboards; it used to be capable only of tunepluschordal accompaniment)‚ dense clusters‚ glissandi‚ quasipercussive effects and sepulchral breathing sounds (the instrument has what is called an ‘air button’)‚ a very wide dynamic range – all these plus sheer hurtling velocity are at David Farmer’s command; he is evidently a very accomplished virtuoso.
The instrument’s fascinating range of sounds‚ plus no doubt its affinity with the reed stops of an organ‚ have recently attracted composers to it. Sofia Gubaidulina took great trouble to study the accordion with the Russian player Friedrich Lips‚ and she exploits its resources to the full. As usual with her‚ I don’t feel that either of these pieces earn their full length – 12 and 17 minutes respectively – but both have passages of really striking invention separated by more vacant stretches. In De profundis a slow chorale makes repeated – eventually successful – attempts to rise from troubled darkness to bright light. The fivemovement Et exspecto evidently has a similar ‘programme’‚ and its continual returns to slow‚ glittering phrases and expulsions of breath perhaps have a religious significance that I cannot grasp; at its heart are chantlike melodies and hymnal responses‚ but they are surrounded by a great deal of exclamatory rhetoric.
Vladimir Zolotaryov‚ who died young and by his own hand in 1975‚ wrote with great understanding for the accordion. His melodies are of the very simplest‚ often shortbreathed‚ with repetitive ostinato accompaniment figures‚ but they effectively tap the instrument’s folk roots. Erkki Jokinen’s short piece is a spectacular étude with rather little musical substance. For David Farmer‚ however‚ I have nothing but admiration‚ and the recording presents him and his instrument in an ideal light.