Il Premio Internazionale a Castelfidardo, Quando la fisarmonica, la fa da padrona by Gerlando Gatto

Article by doyen of Italian music reporters,
Gerlando Gatto, a professional journalist
and music critic in Rome since 1974.

Date: November 2017

International Premio of Castelfidardo - when the accordion becomes its host....

Enthusiastic, engaging is the atmosphere that breathes in Castelfidardo during the week of the annual International Accordion Award (PIF), explicitly recognized as one of the most important international accordion competitions and festivals. And in fact Castelfidardo is known all over the world precisely for its production of fine quality accordions: it is in this small town in the Marche region, province of Ancona, which in 1864 had a citizen, Paolo Soprani who reproduced an instrument that somehow anticipates the modern accordion; From then on, Castelfidardo became internationally known and recognised as a "homeland of the accordion" in Italy and around the world.

At Castelfidardo PIF, the music comes from everywhere, in every street, in every corner of the street, from windows ... all the places where young people are around, they are faced with opportunities to gain recognition. For a lover of accordion like myself, it was a real pleasure not only to listen to so many excellent instrumentalists, but to also have the chance to visit the splendid historical museum in Castelfidardo, which has a huge collection of hundreds of different accordions, many of which are "unique pieces" from some twenty-two different countries.

In addition to an impressive photographic documentation from 1890 to 1970, there are works by artists such as Marc Chagall, Tonino Guerra, Silvia Bugari, Rodolfo Gasparri and faithful reproductions of Giovanni Boldini, Fernand Leger and Gino Severini. Also included in the various rooms, are sculptures by Stefano Pigini, Franco Campanari, Edgardo Mugnoz.

Among the curiosities is a letter from Federico Fellini, the first record recorded with accordion by Pietro Deiro (USA), and even the original score of "Adios Nonino" by Astor Piazzolla.

Among the other curiosities of Castelfidardo, I've seen, the world's largest accordion, a 253 cm high size, 190cm wide, about 250kg weight, which can be actually played thanks to hand-built mounts with huge sized "to scale" components, built by Giancarlo Francenella, who is happily assisted by his wife and daughters.

But now, after these "must do" cultural-tourist attractions, we come to the actual competiton. This year, following the explicit request of Renzo Ruggieri, a famous musician, composer and teacher who does not need any introduction, I was reintroduced to the Accordion Jazz category, as the Head of the jury, which included Samuele Garofali who is an excellent trumpeter, Simone Zanchini accordionist amongst the most reckless / exciting experimenters, Marc Berthoumieux accordionist and composer particularly famous in France and Giovanni Mirabassi, pianist who just over the Alpes has built a solid and well-deserved reputation.

There were five musical groups competing: two from Italy and three from France, Poland and Belarus respectively. Except for the French trio "Sasusi" made up of street artists, undoubtedly very good, but absolutely out of context for this category, the other competitors have all presented a musical Jazz quality of more than acceptable level.

The first prize went to the Polish trio Arek Czernysz; already known and appreciated in their own country. Arek highlighted a more mature technique with good improvising talents and a good knowledge of jazz language; plus the accordionist had a good understanding with the other two performers. Only new, if this can be so defined, a poor scenic presence that, however, can be gained with greater experience.

Second place, another Trio, this time Belarusian, led by accordionist Anatoly Taran; and in this case, he performs with beautiful technique, excellent mastery of the instrument, perfect empathy among the three ... only that the Polish trio is preferred for a more pronounced propensity to improvise and therefore a greater adherence to jazz.

Third place was the Italian trio formed by accordionist Antonino De Luca, Massimo Manzi and Emanuele Di Teodoro on double bass; the formation did not disfigure in front of the other groups and no accident as De Luca was awarded a special prize as best soloist.

Fourth, the Giuseppe Di Falco Jazz Ensemble, despite a performance of emotion, they have received, with thanks to the quality of their arrangements, another special prize featuring the opportunity to perform at an associated concert.

There were moments of great emotion on the final night at the Astra Theater in Castlefidardo when the "Grand Prince" Peppino Principe was called on stage. He had turned 90 years on this day; and to this outstanding accordionist, who for so many years has bestowed on himself the task of not slipping into an accuser of the accordion, he was awarded the honor of "Accordion Ambassador".

After the award ceremony of jazz and varietal winners, Marc Berthoumieux and Giovanni Mirabassi went on stage for a concert that could have closed the event; the two, in addition to being excellent instrumentalists, have developed over time, a valuable understanding that leads them to perform on a very, very high level.
Gerlando Gatto
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