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The harmonium, for which the works here were originally written and/or arranged, was developed and refined in France in the second half of the 19th century. Its subsequent popularity resulted in many compositions for solo harmonium, duets with piano and larger ensembles, as well as arrangements of other works. The modern classical accordion easily replaces the harmonium as it creates a similar sound in almost the same way, by pressing the buttons/keys and moving the bellows to push air over vibrating metal reeds. Both instruments’ singing reed sounds perfectly match the vibrating, at times more percussive, sound of the piano strings.
Playing the harmonium part on classical accordion is the renowned Miloš Milivojević, and playing piano is Simon Callaghan. Both also arrange here. Camille Saint-Saens’ Six Duos Op. 8 for Harmonium and Piano (1858) is beautiful. The Scherzo fast piano part features Callaghan’s amazing playing of the repeated notes within its melodic lines, accompanied by lush accordion chordal transitions. Chorale opens with a very Romantic piano part showing off Callaghan’s amazing ability to create dramatic balance between hands. The alternating accordion lines are breathtaking, especially when both instruments play together, leading to a softer closing extended cadence. A calming Cavatina has slow piano chords under Milivojević’s superb bellows-controlled lush held note “singing” accordion melody, from high held notes to lower contrasting ones. Three other Duos, and works by Guilmant and Franck are also included.
The Milivojević and Callaghan duo performances are tight, balanced and expressive.