Prof Walter Maurer has had an extensive history in accordion activities over many years. For that reason I urge readers of this interview to have a look at Prof. Maurer's internet site (link above - German and English) and see the enormous contribution he has made to so many facets of accordion activity. These many aspects of accordion success make it extremely difficult to cover all these activities in one interview, however, with the help of readers questions, I hope we have covered the most important activities and achievements. Wallace Liggett
Q. When did you first begin learning the accordion?
A. It was in 1941 during the Second World War.
Q. Why did you choose the accordion?
A. My mother had chosen the accordion and bought the last one available at a music shop.
Q. Where were you born?
A. In Vienna, the capital city of Austria.
Q. Were your parents involved in your early music education?
A. My mother and my grandfather only. My father died in 1939 of blood poisoning. He had been a graduate engineer and worked in Germany at that time.
Q. Tell us about your teachers during your beginning to teenage years?
A. There was only one: Johannes LOEW. In 1954 he was the first President of HVO (Harmonikaverband Osterreichs) and one of the members of the founding group.
Q. Any humorous memories of your early years of music?
A. Not many because during the years of war we had little humor.
Q. Did your early teachers strongly stress any learning habits that you still remember clearly?
A. My teacher LOEW taught with his own method. I remember very well his "Modulations". That was a lesson with all possible chords in any key: major , minor, seventh and diminished. He said: you must practise this lesson 6 times a day. Next lesson the teacher was not satisfied and he said: 6 times daily. After that, I asked an older boy and he answered: practise and practise, because if you don't this lesson will never end. If the teacher is not satisfied, he is going down to 5,4,3,2, and by 6 weeks 1 time daily. It will be better for you to do what your teacher wishes or this lesson will be a never ending story. I did!
Q. Describe your musical education after the early years?
A. I started to train at a special high school to become a school teacher. For that reason I had to learn 5 years violin and piano because the accordion was not offered at the school. It was only possible to have accordion lessons from other very good accordion artists.
Q. Is there any teacher or artist to whom you would like to pay particular tribute, for their inspirational effect on your musical career? Question by Heather Masefield
A. I had a number of very good teachers, but I remember as the best my first teacher Mr Loew, but the first artist to inspire me was Gervasio Marcosignori (Italy).
Q. When and why, did you decide to make music your career?
A. In 1952 I started as a school teacher and then commenced to teach accordion in some other institutes. In 1964 the Principal of the University of Music in Vienna appointed me to teach there. Using my new method, I have taught there for 30 years.
Q. A significant amount of your work is with various accordion organizations. I would like to firstly ask about the Confederation Internationale des Accordeonistes (CIA). When did you first become the Secretary General of the CIA? How did this come about?
A. 1975 by election of the General Assembly of Delegates Congress in Helsinki (Finland) and since then I have been re-elected six times.
Q. Describe your duties as the Secretary General?
A. The Secretary General is an unpaid job, except travel costs and an office contribution to cover some persons to help sometimes. Duties are: to maintain the membership records, financial records and books, to prepare for the committee meetings and the General Assembly, prepare the minutes of the meetings and distribute them, to handle the daily correspondence, to present a written report at each Congress, to execute or prepare any kind of work called for by the General Assembly.
Q. How did the CIA start and when? Is its structure the same today?
A. In 1935 as the "International Association of Accordionists" and 1938 was held the first Coupe Mondiale. But one year later the 2nd World War began and activities stopped. In 1947 some members of the first Association met together in Paris and in 1948 the CIA (under a new French name which is the name of the organisation today) started with the first Coupe Mondiale after the war in Lausanne (Switzerland).
Q. Could you explain the structure of the CIA, how it works and membership of it? How does an organisation become a member? Are there different classes of membership?
A. The CIA is a roof confederation. The members under that roof undertake activities and the total of that activities are the CIA. That is the same as in many of the international associations. The CIA has three classes of membership:
1/ Voting Member: National accordion associations from each country and if there is no national association, then a university or conservatory or similar organisation.
2/ Corresponding Member: Associations or similar groups who wish to maintain a close and cooperative relationship with the Confederation but are unable for various reasons to be a Voting Member.
3/ Individual Member:
4/ Supporting Member:
5/ Honorary Member.
Q. Why should national accordion organizations be members of the CIA?
A. A national accordion organization should be a CIA member to demonstrate the union of accordionists over the world. My opinion is: if a national accordion association is not under the roof of CIA it would be an accordion island speaking for itself only. Any member must be proud to be a member in the confederation belonging to the International Music Council (IMC-UNESCO).
Q. The CIA has Congresses twice yearly. What are the purposes of Congresses?
A. General Assemblies are necessary and written in the statutes of any international confederation. Reports of the executive and music committees, reports of members, financial report, to find new places for the Coupe Mondiale, to prepare the rules, select the test piece, Merit Award etc. To receive reports of the organizers of up coming Coupe Mondiale's and many other questions and musical topics.
Q. Could you tell us about the membership of the CIA in the United Nations, IMC-UNESCO organisation? Question by Lian Huang
A. The CIA is a fully recognized member of the International Music Council (IMC-UNESCO) since 1972. IMC has two groups of members: National Music Councils and International Confederations. Today there are 134 National Councils and 37 International Confederations that are members.
Q. One of the main tasks of the CIA is to organise the Coupe Mondiale competitions for soloists. Tell us some of the changes you have noticed in this event during recent years?
A. It is very important to present excellent accordionists to the public. We plan that the Coupe Mondiale will be organized each year in different towns (countries) and therefore we can present the artists to different people. The Coupe Mondiale has helped many times to bring the accordion into universities, academies and conservatories.
The program has been changed du ëring recent years.
At first we had: a test piece, sight reading, and 2 pieces of own choice (mostly transcriptions).
For many years, we have h original pieces composed for the test piece. The sight reading has been changed to a piece of original music. Today contestants are asked to perform transcriptions played strictly to the music text, mostly arranged for free bass. The 2 pieces of own choice have been changed into a program of 20 to 30 minutes.
Q. Where do you see the Coupe Mondiale going in the future? Question by Fay Schaw.
A. The Coupe Mondiale is going good, because we have offers (to host) until 2005! We have never had so many offers in the pocket as this year.
Q. What do you see as the future direction of the accordion and how do you see the accordion fitting into the overall musical scene?
A. Many teachers, artists are working to fit the accordion into the overall musical scene, but what do you mean as musical scene? There many kinds of them. From tecno, rap to standards, contemporary music as solo, symphonic or chamber music. In the scene of chamber music many composers are writing and some artists are performing, but that is contemporary music and not everybody loves to hear it. Therefore the public for that is very small, not only for the accordion, but for all the other instruments also.
Q. There are a number of different international competitions for soloists. Do you think this is to the benefit of the accordion development overall, or do you think it would be better to have closer collaboration between the many competition organizers? How might closer collaboration work?
A. There are 3 traditional international competitions:
COUPE MONDIALE since 1935 (1948) always in an other country;
KLINGENTHAL (since about 1961) in that town only, organized for the Eastern European countries to have the possibility for an international competition;
CASTELFIDARDO as a competition in the middle of the Italian accordion manufacturers.
I know about 16 further competitions for young youngsters. Are the goals only music or to earn money also? I tried for closer collaboration work, but many old traditions make that very difficult.
Q. At times, there have been major criticisms by well known accordionists about the value of competitions. What do you see are the major benefits? What do you see are the negatives?
A. An accordionist entering an international or national competition must practise much more as other students entering will be competing against him or her, therefore he or she will be much better. That is the benefit.
Q. Concerning your work as President of the Harmonikaverband Osterreichs (HVO). Tell us about the organizations most important activities?
A. The Austrian Accordion Association is also a roof over the members, but the members are accordion teachers and orchestras and they undertake their own activities. The most important activity is a competition for accordion solo, duets, ensembles, orchestras and for the diatonic accordion (Styrian Type).
Q. How did you first become involved in the HVO?
A. 1954. I was a member of the founding group and have been Secretary General from 1954 on.
Q. The HVO is organizing the first International Concertina Championship in Austria this year? How did it come about, and the reasons for this event?
A. Not for concertina, but for two other groups of the diatonic accordion
a) for the diatonic accordion (old style)
b) for the Styrian Model (well known in Austria, Bavaria, Croatia, Slovenia and South Tyrol.)
It was a request of a very successful Styrian accordion player, Jacob Bergmann, living in Ausservillgraten. The Mayor heard about it and was in favor of helping to organize the event. He asked the HVO and the HVO agreed. It will be held only once at that village.
Q. You are also President of the International Accordion-Orchestra Society (IAOV). What do you see as the major purpose/most important function/s of the IAOV?
A. The IAOV is organizing the Innsbruck Festival every 3 years. There is an organizing committee: Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
Q. Tell us about the structure of the IAOV, and its membership criteria?
A. There are only national associations welcome as members, they must have mostly accordion orchestras as members.
Q. You had a publishing business at one time. Are you still involved?
A. My publishing business is smaller at this time, but catalogues are available on request. (Moderator: The address is on the Prof Maurer's internet site: www.accordions.com/cia/maurer.htm )
Q. You have written a number of arrangements and transcriptions for both solo and orchestra. Are these published and if so, where can they be obtained?
A. EDITION HARMONIA and EDITION WALTER MAURER (both in Vienna at my address), HOHNER, PREISSLER, WILD (Switzerland) and METROPOL.
Q. What advice would you have for aspiring arrangers for accordion solo and orchestra?
A. Most arrangements for solo or orchestra are very poor. Mostly only two voices an easy 3rd and accompaniment and bass. Many arrangements have been made from piano transcriptions or other easy material. An arrangement must be made from the original. In USA you will find some very good arrangements but not with 4 voices and bass, but with 9 and more voices. Today you can help with synthesizers etc. to come very near to the original sound the composer had written. The piece must sound as the original, the only difference is the sound of accordion.
Q. You are the author of the books titled "Accordion" (a history) and "Akkordeon-Bibliographie. When were these published and where can they be obtained?
A. The book ACCORDION" had been published 1983 and is completely sold out. The Bibliography is published 1990 and is available at HOHNER Publisher. The owner is now SCHOTT.
Q. What motivated you to write these books and what was the main purpose of each book?
A. For the book ACCORDION" I had collected so much material and after 15 years collecting I wrote the book. The Bibliography: I learnt that the bookstores had a book listing other published books and I decided to do this for accordion literature also.
Q. You have written a number of other articles. Are they available to the public and if so, how can our readers obtain them?
A. The articles are not available, because they are printed in many, many magazines in many years.
Q. Since 1972, you have been the Leader of the Vienna Accordionclub Favoriten. Tell us about this accordion orchestra and your involvement with them?
A. I have taught most of the players, and had many ensembles before. I had the choice to put together the best players in an orchestra. I am the conductor, the arranger and the "Spiritual Father" of them. Many of the players have been 30 years and more with me in this orchestra. The orchestra has developed its own sound.
Q. What instrumentation other than accordion does this orchestra have. Are any of the accordions amplified?
A. We have accordions in 4 to 5 voices, 2 electronic instruments, bass and drums. We have no accordions amplified because it would destroy the natural sound of the accordion.
Q. Tell us about their concert and competition successes?
A. The orchestra has taken part in international and national competition from middle class (some years ago) to advanced and has 23 first, second and third placings. We have two concerts a year and take part in some other concerts (i.e.: Opening of VIENNESE FESTIVAL in spring).
Q. What started your interest in accordion orchestras?
A. I started with lessons in groups with a special method. I received distinctions and a prize from the town of Vienna for that special method. Groups at the lessons are future groups for ensembles and orchestras. I have now three ensembles (one is the Viennese Chamber Ensemble) and two orchestras.
Q. How did the Viennese Chamber Accordion Ensemble start?
A. 1967. There had been an orchestra directed by my teacher in Vienna. That orchestra moved from the 9th district to the 10th. That should be no problem 9 and 10 are neighbors, but not in Vienna. The 1st district is in the middle, 2 to 9 around as one circle, but the 10th district is situated on the beginning of the 3rd circle and on the other side of the town. You need about one hour to drive from 9 to 10. Therefore that orchestra lost many players. At that time I had 4 members of the ensemble to prepare them for competitions (2 for Coupe Mondiale and 2 for national competition). That 4 and 4 from the old orchestra was the start for the ensemble.
Q. What are the special factors that you believe have enabled Viennese Chamber Accordion Ensemble to continue performing together for so many years with success? Tell us of some of the highlights of their music making? Recordings? Any amusing performance situations?
A. The members of the ensemble are friends, some of them spent holidays together, go to theater or other events. We do not have many concerts a year and that does not disturb family life. We have undertaken some journeys in:
EUROPE to Holland, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden
OVERSEAS to USA, Australia and New Zealand.
Some highlights: in USA the concert at Carnegie Hall and 6 shows at Disneyland Epcot Center in Orlando, and the tour through New Zealand with camper vans. Recordings: one MC own production and one CD with WEA label (that`s WARNER BROS). Now we work on the next CD (own production) and it will be available in October 1999.
Q. You are involved with both accordion ensemble and accordion orchestra? What do you see as the individual strengths of both?
A. There are no particular strengths. I love to conduct my orchestra and to play with my friends in the ensemble. That´s fun and no conflict, they are different.
Q. You have undertaken many workshops and seminars in different countries. Describe the seminar/workshop topics that you consider your most important and why?
A. The themes of my seminars today are involved with the accordion orchestra. How to MAKE GOOD MUSIC and that is what is not written in the music text. Very important have been two seminars in REMSCHEID (Germany) where 30 conductors of German orchestras played orchestra. But the greatest success is an accordion seminar together with seminars of other instruments each year in July. At the end of the seminar there was a concert. We got the most applause of all the instruments - that was a real success!
Q. Describe your most "incredible" or "unusual" or "interesting" performance (or judging or seminar) situation? The most humorous?
A. Some years ago my ensemble had been invited to play at a conclusion concert of a festival in LIENZ (Tyrol). We arrived in that town and the organizer was astonished that we had arrived as we should come next week. What had happened? The responsible department of the town had changed the date of that event and had forgotten that we were invited. We played afterwards a concert with 12 people in the audience.
GRADUS PARNASSUM is an Austrian national high grade competition for all instruments and 1998 the accordion had been invited for the first time to take part. That is a competition for universities and conservatories student´s only. I had been appointed as adjudicator. 12 accordionists had entered. The other instruments were woodwind and brass and chamber music for strings and piano. After a short jury meeting we wished to start the competition, but only one candidate was present but his performance time should be 90 minutes later. We asked him if he would play and he competed. After him we asked the secretary of the competition for the next candidate , but nobody came. It was a competition with one candidate only. A black day for the accordion!
Q. Describe your position as Professor at the Franz Schubert Conservatory in Vienna and what duties does this position entail?
A. I am professor for accordion at the FRANZ SCHUBERT CONSERVATORY and teach there since 1982. That is a private institute and a student has to pay a monthly amount. These are the possibilities for study: a) to become a graduated teacher for accordion for the music schools with two possibilities:
(1) three years study for elementary schools or
(2) a) four years study for a higher grade and better income
b) to study to become an artist.
Q. Is there any feature of the Franz Schubert Conservatory teaching program that you consider unique?
A. The students are not forced to play free bass or button. That is free to the student. If a student wants to study button or free bass they can do it.
Q. How many accordion students are currently studying at the Franz Schubert Conservatory and can students from countries other than Austria study there?
A. There are 9 accordion students currently studying at the conservatory:
1 button accordion - stradella (standard bass),
4 piano accordion - free bass/stradella (free rows and not convertor)
4 piano accordion - stradella,
plus I have
3 additional in preliminary studies (piano, stradella) of which one is special: in Vienna attending a gymnasium for music students playing accordion.
Any student of other countries can study here. There is no restriction.
Q. How has your musical career impacted on your personal life? Question by Dellwyn Ellis.
A. My musical career is a great part of my life but my family has the greater part. I work some weeks 70 hours and more, but I have kept all together in harmony.
Q. Tell us about your family and do they share your interest in music?
A. Yes, my family share my interest in music: my wife is playing some instruments, my daughter plays in my orchestra, my son plays accordion and very good piano. Without my wife´s love for music it would be impossible to have such a musical career. She has also a great understanding. We are 31 years married and that is proof enough. My daughter is a primary school teacher, married with a boy (my grandson) and is awaiting a girl as a second child. My son is product manager in a world wide well known company and a qualified (graduate) engineer.
Q. What non accordion music do you most like to listen to?
A. I love most music , but NO techno, rap, pop and contemporary music in advantgarde or experimental style. Mostly I listen to classical music.
Q. What other interests and hobbies besides music do you have?
A. Cooking and collecting stamps, especially certain countries.
Q. What musical achievement are you most proud of?
A. I am proud of all my musical achievements, I could not pick out any specific accomplishment.