VIAF 2022


Piano accordionist Djordje Gajic undoubtedly is an amazing piano accordion virtuoso. His mastery delights an audience but behind all the necessary showmanship to put his message across, there is also deep and sensitive musicianship. The impact was immediate with his opening item. This was his arrangement, as were most of the pieces performed, of J.S. Bach (1685-1750)’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565. Undoubtedly Bach’s most famous and easily recognisable work, its very popularity and countless transcriptions and adaptations could risk becoming hackneyed. Certainly not in this case in which one instrument was made to sound not as if it were a multi-piped organ but like a whole orchestra. It could only be rendered credible by keeping eyes wide open, thus confirming that there was only one man and only one instrument in that Aula.

From all that monumental grandeur the scene changed with an arrangement of the Andante in F, K. 616, by Mozart (1756-91); composed only a few months before the composer’s death. The projected atmosphere was a relaxed one, with just the right dose of elegantly gentle grace. Quite different was a difficult and challenging work by Tanya Sergeyevna (b.1951). This was Jasmin, an original work for accordion and piano. This was where guest pianist Bernice Sammut Attard who hours before had arrived from graduating B.A. at the Royal Conservatory of Scotland. This work is a tango during which, initially, the accordion takes up the melody after the pianist’s plucking a few strings, then with some decisive chords created a counter-balance to the accordion. Things got moving faster and there was a keen and lively interaction between the two performers right until the conclusion.

Violinist Andrea Gajic, Djordje’s wife and like him, teaching at the Royal Conservatory of Scotland, made a sole appearance during this concert with her husband performing Cinderella, a brief seven-minute work by Alexey Arkhipovsky (b. 1967). There was no explanation as to the title and whether it had anything to do with the famous fairy tale. Even so, the music as it turned out was mesmerising enough to hold one’s attention. It simply brought out the amazing qualities of the violin in this other tango. Both instruments eventually made full use of their respective instruments’ highest reaches. The violin was simply stunning, ethereal even soaring impossible heights which throughout remained crystal clear and pure. I thought this was promising extremely well for Andrea Gajic’s performance of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto during the closing concert of this year’s VIAF.

A solo accordion work was a charming character piece, one of many Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) composed, this one being Circo Brasileiro n.4. Much of his music, like this piece, is redolent with Brazilian folk influences and his personal brand of neo-classicism, colourful and a delight to listen to, especially in the way Djordje Gajic rendered it. He closed this tour-de-force with Diptych, by Vyatcheslav Semyonov (b. 1972) and the youngest composer in this programme.

The two parts of the work are Beautiful Rose, lovely and a little passionate, followed by a dreamy and very evocative Dawn Rhapsody. The audience wanted more and Djordje Gajic obliged with a humorous arrangement of his, Figaro’s aria Largo al factorum from Act 1 of Rossini’s opera Il barbiere di Siviglia. That conclusion came with quite an impressive flourish worthy of a true virtuoso.

Albert George Storace