The Sirius Accordion Trio Interview, Meet the Musician Behind the Sound by Collaborators Andrea Di Giacomo & Adele Pirozzolo
Meet the Musician Behind the Sound

UK flag "Meet the Musician Behind the Sound" is a new series of interviews with young and upcoming accordionists so you can get to know them better. The Collaborators conducting the interviews are Adele Pirozzolo and Andrea Di Giacomo. This interview was created by Adele Pirozzolo.

Research and innovation in chamber music repertoire -
Interview with the
Sirius Accordion Trio

The Sirius Accordion Trio, made up of Michele Bianco, Alberto Nardelli and Pietro Secundo, came to life in December 2019 and aims to disseminate the classical accordion within the most important concert venues, expressing the potential of an instrument that is too often still relegated to the popular sphere. The trio has won numerous first prizes in important national and international chamber music competitions, bringing to the stage mainly original contemporary pieces written for this type of ensemble from the Russian and Northern European school. Young, talented, dedicated to music and with clear ideas: this is how I could describe the young accordionists who make up the Sirius Trio. These are all qualities that will lead to further recognition and, above all, promote original literature that is still unrecognised, as well as making known the peculiarities of an instrument that deserves to shine in the firmament of music.

Credit Photographer: Ivano D'Ortenzio

Q. The first question, which I am sure you have been asked before, is quite predictable: how did an accordion-only trio come into being? What prompted you to invest in this formation?

A. Our trio was musically born three years ago in the class of Maestro Germano Scurti, an accordion teacher at the "Tito Schipa" Conservatory of Music in Lecce.

Each of us undertook our solo studies at the conservatory, and in our path we had a particular interest in chamber music and, in this specific case, in the accordion trio.

This ensemble for us represents almost a sort of passing of the baton, as our teacher had an accordion trio, the "Solotarev Trio", in the past. The "Lecce Accordion Project", an accordion trio also formed under the guidance of Maestro Scurti, composed of Michele Bianco, Francesco Coluccia and Giovanni Fanizza, and finally our own, the "Sirius Accordion Trio" composed of Michele Bianco, Alberto Nardelli and Pietro Secundo, was formed in our conservatory.

If we ask ourselves what prompted us to invest in this kind of group, we might find the answer by asking what the three accordion ensembles mentioned above have in common. It is a classical accordion trio, aimed at proposing musical research with an innovative and original content in the concert scene. We play a very young instrument, the most evolved version of the button accordion in terms of the extension of the manuals and the peculiarities in timbre and more advanced technical capabilities, very different from the traditional accordion, which since the late 1960s has developed a contemporary literature of great quality but still little known.

The specificity of this ensemble lies precisely in its repertoire, which ranges from the contemporary experiences of the Russian school to the latest research of the northern European compositional school and original reworkings of works by various composers.

Especially in our area, in the South, the potential of the accordion is almost unknown or notoriously attributed to a strictly popular dimension. We feel obliged to present the original literature for this instrument with illustrious composers such as Petri Makkonen, Vyacheslav Semenov, Vladimir Zubitsky, Krzysztof Olczack and some transcriptions. No particular preference. Every piece we perform fascinates us tremendously.

Q. You are three young accordionists, each with your own personal and musical background. Did you share the academic path and did you, in a way, grow up together or is it with the trio that the spark that makes you so in tune with each other was sparked?

Coming from the same accordion school, it is more immediate to find an understanding and we refine ourselves more quickly. We have a twofold strength on our side: we refer as much to the consolidated performance practice of Maestro Scurti's class as to the strength that the accordion trio gives us in terms of musical affinity, a truly incredible interchange of energies.

Performance practice, refinement in all its facets, and the goal of promoting our chamber music ensemble are the main characteristics that unite us and give us the energy and motivation to do more and more and make a greater contribution to the musical world, not just accordion music.

Q. You have won numerous prizes in prestigious competitions, such as First Prize at the "Alberto Burri" National Competition for Youth Chamber Music Ensembles, promoted by the Festival delle Nazioni di Città di Castello, or First Prize at the "74th Coupe Mondiale International Accordion Competition" held in Munich in 2021, where you were the first Italian chamber music ensemble to win. What were your strong points in winning over the jury?

A. We have won several prizes in prestigious competitions, and the juries of the various competitions recognise the qualities that perhaps most distinguish us: our feeling, our stage presence, as well as the power and peculiarities of our instrument.

To describe in words everything that happens to us when we go on stage is really difficult because they are all strong feelings. Underlying them is a strong motivation, a passion for our instrument and the desire to interpret our repertoire with an expressive intensity that can give us a sense of uniqueness. Seeing the amazed faces of the audience and receiving the appreciation of international juries is the lifeblood for us to always do our best. We are three young instrumentalists each with our own specificities, we try to express our abilities to the best of our ability, and the awards we have received are the result of our hard work and continuous research.

Our study is based not only on the investigation of the repertoire to be performed, but also and above all on the way in which we want to communicate musical content: for us, this point represents the main focus of our research and our way of playing in public.

Q. Your repertoire consists mainly of original music for accordion, written by composers such as Bogdan Precz, Vladislav Zolotarev, Anatoly Kusiakov, Vladimir Zubitsky, Petri Makkonen, Kimmo Hakola, Krzysztof Olczak, Vyacheslav Semenov, Pawel Baranek, Jukka Tiensuu, and transcriptions by Alfred Schnittke. Definitely a demanding repertoire, which fully shows the instrument's peculiarities and enhances its timbre. What criteria did you adopt in choosing the pieces?

A. We started with the idea that we had to offer original repertoire written for accordion trio, so composers such as Petri Makkonen, Kimmo Hakola, Krzysztof Olczak, Vyacheslav Semenov, Pawel Baranek were among the first composers we sought out and included in our programme. Original music written for our chamber ensemble is not as abundant as it may be for other established chamber ensembles in history, so the search for the choice of pieces may not be easy.

The Russian school together with the northern European school have made a significant contribution to the development of repertoires for our instrument, so our focus has been on these schools. It must also be said that in Italy, the attention of composers towards our instrument is increasing, our next step will be to commission new works for our training.

We are currently concentrating on proposing our programme, to make it known as much as possible, to create almost a historical memory of our repertoire in order to be able to record it in our first record work, which is under construction.

Video: TV appearance.

Q. Every project brings with it an idea, something to express and want to communicate, in this case with music through your instruments. What kind of message do you want to send to the audience and what would you like them to grasp after listening to and enjoying your notes?

A. In our repertoire we have the piece Ararà by Kimmo Hakola, a Finnish composer. On the first page of the score of this piece there is a brief description by the composer: "Ararà means nothing. Both the music and the name are intended to provoke the receptors of the audience, not to represent anything in this world but themselves. Ararà is a dance. Close your eyes and let your mind move freely and wildly".

It often happens to us, during a concert, that even the "uninitiated" can feel wonder and a sense of almost dizziness attending one of our performance. The novelty of hearing an accordion trio for the first time immediately fascinates the audience; little-known, or mostly completely unknown repertoires arouse particular attention among onlookers, even among non-musicians, and grasping their meaning very often may seem complex.

Yet, going back to the description of Hakola's piece, very often the audience lets go of our music, thus abandoning all forms of prejudice and preconception. We are often told that our playing drags so much, even though our repertoire is completely unknown to most. We believe that this is the most important and motivating message for us, it doesn't matter what we play but how we play it and the strong feelings we manage to trigger in the hall. The wide-open eyes of the audience communicate more than a thousand words, we treasure this and continue to work on the development and dissemination of our training.

1st Prize, Sirius Accordion Trio. Final round. 2022 10th Anton Garcia Abril International Chamber Music Competition. June 3, 2022 in Baza, Granada, Spain.

Q. I would like to better understand how your training works: is there a leader, the one who motivates and organises? How do you manage rehearsals, also logistically?

A. We always try to be consistent during our practice sessions, especially during busy periods. Our rehearsals are divided between the Lecce Conservatory and our homes. We were born shortly before the Covid pandemic exploded and we had to invent a way to start rehearsing, thanks to technology we were able to rehearse tracks remotely, and soon there would be our first public performance in the Rai studios in Via Teulada, Rome, for the Rai1 programme "È l'Italia, bellezza!".

The common line of the trio is to have the same kind of commitment to the various tasks.

Credit Photographer: Tiziano Minciotti

Q. What projects are planned and what stages will you be treading in this year?

A. One of our main commitments in this year will be the recording and release of our first record work. We will have a concert tour in prestigious Spanish concert institutions, from Madrid to Malaga and Granada. We will perform at some important classical music festivals in Italy between Florence, Turin, Ancona and Milan.

Other engagements are in the pipeline waiting to be experienced. We hope to play as much as possible and to be a source of inspiration for new generations of accordionists.

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