Accordion doctor Markku Lepistö is known as a contemporary folk musician with an international outreach, but on this new album he allows us a glimpse of an alternative, entertaining reality where his diatonic bisonoric accordion is an instrument not of seedy dance halls but of the salons of high society. Working with pianist Ilpo Laspas, Lepistö has sought out and rearranged music that was actually performed by touring accordion virtuosos when the relatively new instrument was still in search of an identity in the early 19th century.
The marches, polkas, character pieces and variations on contemporary hits from operas prompt a much wider grin than one might imagine. Lepistö plays with a flexible rhythmic touch firmly rooted in folk music, giving an actual kick to the faster numbers, and the intimate mood of a salon is conjured up by the sound engineering deliberately designed to give presence to both the mechanical nature and the soulfulness of the accordion. The sense of olden times is augmented by the endearingly clunky wreck of a grand piano that Ilpo Laspas treats with tender loving care.
This is more than just a light-hearted historical entertainment, as it concludes with a heavenly version of Casta diva by Bellini, delivered with an emotional human touch that takes the listener’s breath away and would make Maria Callas green with envy.
European Soirée - 19th Century Classical Repertoire for Accordion
Markku Lepistö, 1-row and 3-row accordions
Ilpo Laspas, piano and harpsichord
Rapusaari Records RAPU005.
Translation: Jaakko Mäntyjärvi