Accordions Worldwide Celebrity Interview, Manfred Gàbler, Organizer and Supporter of the Kligenthal International Accordion Competitions, Klingenthal, Germany, for over 45 years.
Celebrity Interviews

Manfred Gabler

May 2011

Celebrity Interview of Manfred Gàbler, Organizer and Supporter of the Kligenthal International Accordion Competitions, Klingenthal, Germany, for over 45 years.

Gabler Award
Photo above and text from Weekly News 15 October 2010:

On August 19th 2010 Manfred Gàbler received the Saxon Order of Merit Gabler for his long term commitment in organizing the highly prestigious Klingenthal International Accordion Competition. In a ceremony at the Saxon State Chancellery in Dresden, Manfred Gàbler (centre) was honored, in the presence of the Klingenthal Mayor Enrico Bräunig (right) and predecessor Reiner Schneidenbach (left), award presented by Prime Minister Stanislaw Tillich.

This award is made as appreciation for outstanding contributions to the Free State of Saxony and its people. The Award of Merit of the Free State of Saxony was given for the first time on October27th 1997. This award may be presented to local or foreign personalities for services in the political, social, cultural, economic or environmental field for the benefit of the local public. The number of medal holders may not be higher than 500 and until now 209 persons have received this prestigious award.

Q: Were you born in Klingenthal and you also grew up there?
A: Yes, I was born in Klingenthal and spent my childhood in my hometown that I left at the age of 14 years because of school attendance.

Q: Are other family members as musically talented as you and what are your first memories of the accordion?
A: In a way, my parents have a musical background. My mother played guitar, my father sang in what at the time, was a very famous male voice choir. One of my aunts was a trained singer. Most important of all, was the interest of my family for musical events in our town and surroundings. So this musical background early in my life as a child was important. At the age of eight years I started learning the accordion. In Klingenthal at that time, it was almost a must. I also took piano lessons. The lessons took place at home.

Q: How did the idea of an accordion competition in Klingenthal come to be launched?
A: After the end of the 2nd World War II in 1945, there was probably in most places, a certain "cultural hunger", including in our region. Already in 1946, Klingenthal organized a multi-day music festival, created by the war decimated orchestras, choirs and music groups in our valley and surrounding areas. Due to the large pre-war tradition of the Klingenthal tradition of production of the accordion and harmonica, in 1947 the idea of a contest for accordion and harmonica player in the region was initiated.

Holde and Manfred Gaebler
Holde and Manfred Gàbler

Q: When were you involved for the first time in the Klingenthal competition?
A: It was probably in 1966 when I first collaborated in the calculation of the competition office.

Q: When was the first competition held? Can you tell us a little about it? How many categories and attendees were there?
A: The first time was in 1948 and at that time, Klingenthal was part of the Soviet occupation zone. Accordion soloists, accordion duos and accordion groups were invited to compete. On 27 October 1948, 15 young soloists, groups, 14 professional players and 4 accordion duos took part. The first Klingenthaler accordion competition was born with national participants. Amongst the participants were in the following competitiors Hans Boll, Helmut Reinbothe, Herbert Gerber and others.

Q: Who was the first Klingenthaler competition winner?
A: 1948 The Accordion Duo Alfons Nietzsche / Werner Herold
1949 The soloist Herbert Gerber

Q: When was the international competition? Who was the first non-German competitor and who was the first international winner of the top soloists category?
A: The first accordion competition with international participation was held in 1963. In addition to the German participants there were contestants from Poland and Belgium.

CIA President Kevin Friedrich and Manfred Gàbler
Then President of the Confédération Internationale des Accordéonistes (CIA) Kevin Friedrich and Manfred Gàbler were at the first meeting in Klingenthal City on 15 May 2007 between the CIA and Klingenthal organisers.
Manfred Gàbler, Joan Sommers, Harley Jones, Kevin Friedrich, Günther Zeilinger
At the CIA/Klingenthal meeting with Manfred Gàbler was Joan Sommers, retired Prof. at UMKC University and then Deputy Chairperson of the CIA Music Committee, Harley Jones director of Accordions Worldwide ( and CIA Public Relations Manager, Kevin Friedrich, then CIA President and Günther Zeilinger, then DHV delegate and director of Akkordeonorchester Hof.

Manfred Gabler presentationPicture left: Presentation by Holda Paoletti-Kampl (Accordions Worldwide) presenting the Accordions Worldwide Special Award to Klingenthal for the competition.

Q: How difficult was it to carry out the international event during the former political situation and times?
A: During that time, the sponsorship and the organization of the International Accordion Competition was in the hands of the City of Klingenthal and the VEB Klingenthal Harmonica Factories, who were interested that the accordion became an export item, especially, exporting to the western world. For this reason, the Klingenthal International Accordion Competition became a useful and appreciated platform. The bureaucratic hurdles, such as obtaining visas cannot even be imagined by people today who have not lived with such experiences in the past.

Q: Over the years, Klingenthal became one of the most prestigious international accordion competitions in the world. What makes Klingenthal unique? Is the last round with the symphony orchestra a factor, and when was this started?
A: With the growing number of international participants, especially from abroad, respected judges, and not least, the almost perfect regulations, including the selection of the compulsory test music literature, have all helped the Klingenthal competition to develop its high reputation. A unique feature of the competition for the top solo category IV (adults), is the final section, which four contestants are selected, to perform a concerto for accordion with symphony orchestra. A precursor to this was the requirement introduced in 1977, a concerto for accordion with piano accompaniment. Since 1983 it became obligatory for the final of this category to perform a concerto for accordion with orchestra. This feature of the Klingenthal competitions is still active.

Q: When was the bandoneon category introduced?
A: The categlory VII-bandoneon soloist, was introduced in 2006. This was triggered by the growing importance of the bandoneon and the production of this musical instrument in Klingenthal and Carlsfeld.

Q: Now, life has changed with the political changes, opening of the borders and so on. How has Klingenthal adapted and how can the city and the competition benefit from this development?
A: During and even after the peaceful political revolution, there was financial difficulties and from various sides, were suggestions to move the Klingenthal competition to other places or to have it run on a “reduced basis” or even to have it stop. Some verbal attacks and disturbance from outside was quite often the case, but thanks to the support and views of Klingenthal people, the competition was able to survive and ultimately become strengthened. The event has continued without any interruption and to this day successfully endures.

Klingenthal monumentQ: Is there any significant milestones in the long history of the Klingenthal competition?
A: In Klingenthal, one was constantly striving to upgrade the competitive process. In addition to the historical competition categories, the organiszatin aimed to have additional activities to help increase the events attractiveness. Nevertheless, our organization is very aware that our competition must not loose its academic nature. We were and are always striving to bring something new. For example, the introduction of new categories: Virtuoso Entertainment Music, bandoneon solo, accordion duo, accordion duo with other musical instruments, groups of up to 5 musicians, including one accordion, same with bandoneon, discussions, discussion groups. These are all aimed to keep the event developing. This year (2011) featured a workshop with the famous American jazz accordionist Frank Morocco. Besides the competition, there is always an interesting and even top-class supporting program offered.

City Officials
Left to Right: Official from the City of Kraslice (twin city of Kingenthal), Mr. Sasse/Mayor of twin city Neuenrade, Manfred Gàbler, Holda Paoletti-Kampl (Accordions Worldwide), former Mayor of Klingenthal Reiner Schneidenbach, 2 city officials of Klingenthal - in front of the Klingenthal Monument, outside the City Hall.

Q: Tell us about the special relationship between Klingenthal and Castelfidardo!
A: The special twin city agreement was signed between Castelfidardo and Klingenthal in 2003. Both cities have accordion manufacturing happening within their cities. Both cities are organizer of a renowned accordion competition. Therefore, both local authorities follow in some respects, very similar interests. The twin city connection between Castelfidardo and Klingenthal was initiated by an invitation from the City of Castelfidardo Government and was inspired by private initiatives in order to officially seal the Twinning of the two cities. For the initiators of the competitions in Klingenthal and Castelfidardo, there is a reciprocal visit to the other cities competition and events which is always a very interesting meeting for both parties. I would like to mention that each of the cities offer Special Prizes for the competition. The accordion was in effect the leading part for these cities to become twinned followed by personal friendship which has continued to develop over the years.

Q: Your event is approaching its 50th Birthday - have you any special plans for this major anniversary?
A: We are of course very proud to celebrate in 2 years time the 50th International competition in Klingenthal. Currently there are only vague ideas that have not yet been finalised.

Q: You have supported and organized the competition for the past 45 years. How do you see the continuation and development of the International Accordion Competition in Klingenthal?
A: We will continue to maintain our principles that have always taken us forward:
The International Accordion Competition Klingenthal:
- Wants to promote the learning of the solo accordion and solo bandoneon from childhood to master soloist.
- Wants to show the versatility of the accordion in solo and ensemble performance.
- Wants to feature the special interplay of solo accordion performing with a symphonic orchestra.
- Wants to develop the interplay of accordion and bandoneon with other musical instruments, particularly chamber music.
- Wants to find new compositions and present them to the public.
- Wants to facilitate the meeting of accordionists and teachers with music instrument makers and promote the exchange of views.

Q: We know that you have received several national and international important awards for your work. Would you kindly tell us something about that?
A: I do not really want to say too many words about this. In October 2008 I was awarded in Glasgow by the Confédération Internationale des Accordéonistes (CIA) their Merit Award.
In August 2010 I was honored in Dresden by the Prime Minister Stanislav Tillich with the Merit Award of the Free State of Saxony. I received this award for my commitment and preservation of the accordion competition, but not the least of my extensive cultural activities in general in the area of my hometown (picture and information at the start of this interview).

CIA Merit Award to Manfred Gaebler
Picture above: On 25 October 2008 in Glasgow, Scotland, the Confédération Internationale des Accordéonistes (CIA) President Kevin Friedrich presented the CIA Merit Award to Manfred Gàbler for all his contributions to the international accordion movement. See text and photos about the Accordion Summit at the 2008 Coupe Mondiale where Manfred Gàbler was representing Klingenthal.

Q: Are there many young people in Klingenthal. participating in this competition?
A: Unfortunately, only few accordionists from Klingenthal and the Upper Vogtland take part in the

Q: What do you wish for the future of competition?
A: Continuation of the same! Obviously there are certain commitments necessary. It seems very important to me, that the Klingenthal Mayor and City Council fully support the event with all possible assistance for this long lasting competition. We also hope that the authorities of the Free State of Saxony continue their support and that the many interested enthusiasts from near and far remain faithful as a visitors and competitors. Ultimately we hope to annually welcome many active participants, as without them, no competition can survive.

Picture left: Holde and Manfred Gàbler
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