Composer meets accordion, new music follows

Music from Almost Yesterday presents virtuoso Stas Venglevski in new music by UWM's Yehuda Yannay Sunday.

By - Sep 21st, 2012 01:10 pm
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Stas Venglevski will play music by Yehuda Yannay on a Music from Almost Yesterday program Sunday at UWM.sconsin Lutheran College.

It all began with a knock on a door.

While walking down the hall in the UWM School of Music building one day in 1992, Yehuda Yannay heard an instrument he couldn’t quite recognize. He decided to  investigate. The results of that meeting have resounded ever since. You can hear the latest at a Music from Almost Yesterday concert at 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 23, at UWM.

Behind the door was Stas Venglevski, recently arrived in Milwaukee with his wife, Roza Borisova, who was studying in the UWM Institute of Chamber Music as cellist for the Veronika Quartet. Stas plays the bayan, the Russian button accordion. He had taken to practicing in the Veronika Quartet’s rehearsal room at the UWM to avoid disturbing his neighbors.

The two quickly became friends, and Yehuda vowed to write something for Stas. This finally came to be in 1999, when Yannay composed My Main Squeeze for trumpet, cello, and bayan. This proved to be a the beginning of a long professional collaboration and a string of pieces involving the bayan.

How many?

Yannay admitted he had lost track. Venglevski recalled with certainty: “Six to date, plus two more that I transcribed for the bayan.”

yehuda yannay

Composer Yehuda Yannay

The most recent of these, The Bogen Songs and M, My Dear, in a two-accordion transcription by Venglevski, will premiere at the UWM Peck School of the Arts Recital Hall at 3 p.m.  Sunday, Sept. 23. Soprano Valerie Errante, flutist Marie Sander, clarinetist Chris Zello and cellist Adrien Zitoun will join Venglevski in the Bogen Songs.  John Simkus and Venglevski will play M, My Dear. Anna Rubin’s Celia’s Samovar will also debut on this program, which in addition offers music by Satie, Villa-Lobos, and Berinski.

Yannay and Venglevski have recently released a CD containing three of Yannay’s compositions: Bayannayab, written for Stas and his teacher Friedrich Lipps; Bayannette, for bayan and piano; and Plus avec Moins (More from Less), written for Venglevski and the French Flute Orchestra, premiered in Paris this summer.

“Working with Yehuda was a unique experience,” Venglevski said. He had never directly worked with a composer prior to My Main Squeeze, although he had done a lot of contemporary music. Both he and Yannay have nothing but praise for their collaboration, which has continued to grow. Through Yannay, Venglevski has forged further links and commissions with other composers, such as Rubin, Carthage College professor of composition Mark Petering, and UWM graduate Josh Schmidt, who composed Love in an Iron Lung for him.

Yannay is not done with the bayan accordion yet. A seventh composition is in the works for 2013, “because I have yet to write anything that Stas can play by himself.”

The concert begins at 3 p.m. Sunday in the Recital Hall, 2400 E. Kenwood Blvd., at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Tickets are $12; $10 for seniors, UWM Faculty/Staff, PSOA Alumni, and students from other schools; $9 for UWM students; $5 for 13-18 and PSOA student ; 12 and under free. Call the PSOA box office, 414 229-4308, or buy online.

Don’t miss anything! Bookmark Matthew Reddin’s comprehensive TCD Guide to the 2012-13 Season. Sponsored by the Florentine Opera.

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