Murl Allen Sanders Concerto Premiere
by Marjorie Dick Rombauer
Murls appearance with Orchestra
Seattle June 6, 2003 was a double thrill, since he not only appeared
as a soloist but was also playing the world premiere of the accordion
concerto he composed and orchestrated. The work was commissioned by George
Shangrow and Orchestra Seattle, which Mr. Shangrow directs.
A brief bellow shake begins the first movement of the concerto, leading
into the driving but haunting motif that becomes the dominant theme. Improvised
against the orchestral background, it leads into other motifs, moving
between pensive and passionate moods, with almost light-hearted melodic
interludes. Short call-and-response chord passages with the brass are
dramatic. The interplay with violins in this portion of the movement is
particularly pleasing. An intricate accordion passage follows. Then the
unadorned dominant theme returns, builds to a climax with violins and
accordion, and fades away for the conclusion. The composers notes
indicate that this movement is a Brazilian tango. As such, it reflects
the emotion, tension and melancholy of other melodic and haunting tangos
without the violence of the most passionate tangos.
The second, andante, movement begins with an extended sustained orchestral
bass note, over which the orchestra then introduces the main theme at
a very slow tempo, repeated by differing instrumental groupings. The accordion
introduces a secondary theme, then picks up the main theme at a jazzier
tempo and improvises with the orchestra, interspersed with triumphant
repetitions of the theme by trumpets. The tempo slows and the accordion
improvises pensively. The main theme reappears in the jazzier mood until
the orchestra slows and ends the movement on the main theme as slowly
as it began. Program notes indicate that the composer describes this slow
movement as a rock anthem. The movement has anthem-like passages,
and a rock-like bass is used during much of the movement, sometimes with
a delightful pizzicato. Overall, it has an open spaces mood
expansive as the Grand Canyon and open as the prairies.
The third movement is a tarantella, a lively molto allegro. The solo accordion
leads the orchestra on a lively chase, with delightful, sometimes restrained,
orchestral interludes. The finale is a series of cadenzas, executed with
a flair the more impressive because Murl performed while standing.
Program notes report that George Shangrow has termed the finale an
Italian wedding turned ominous!
Overall, the entire concerto is impressive. My appreciation has grown
after several rehearings, and the haunting themes of the first and second
movements seem to have lodged permanently in my head.
Murls part of the program concluded with an American Songbook Medley
(music of Irving Berlin, George Gershwin and Cole Porter), which Murl
performed at the grand piano (also singing two numbers) and on the accordion.
Murls work on the concerto is quite remarkable. Although it was
commissioned two years before the performance, he in fact completed the
scoring and orchestration for it in four months, working from musical
ideas he had recorded as they occurred to him in the preceding months.
This, too, was his first attempt at orchestration. The total result leads
to anticipation for his Accordion Concerto No.2. The accomplishments are
all the more remarkable in light of his busy schedule. The Solo
Artists notes in the evenings program recount his many activities:
His versatility has led him to be in demand as a freelance artist
in numerous bands and studios work for MUZAK, TV and radio commercials
as well as sideman work on many CD projects in the Pacific Northwest.
Mr. Sanders also leads his own band, does solo work, composes, teaches,
and arranges music, sings, plays piano, harmonica, Hammond B-3 and electronic
Shirlee Holmes also attended the concert and was equally enthusiastic.
She comments: It was exciting to be able to attend the world premiere
performance of Murls Accordion Concerto. Murl played magnificently
as the accordion soloist, and his concerto was very well received by the
traditional classical enthusiast audience. The orchestration was very
impressive, displaying the rarely heard capabilities of the accordion
as a classical solo instrument. Congratulations, Murl! Well done!
The concerto performance was recorded and has been aired at least twice
on classical KING-FM. It will undoubtedly be aired again in the future.
A CD of the performance will be available for sale eventually. Murl has
other recordings, his latest being Can You Dance To It, featuring
original tunes in a danceable mix of styles he calls zyfusico,
including pop, zydeco, rock, country and blues influences.