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  Legendary Instruments & Exhibits

The AWAM is priviliged to be able to showcase a variety of instruments that are legendary in status.

big red big red
big red
Pictured at the keyboard is Helmi Harrington, Ph. D.
 
“Big Red,” also known as A. Cecil Taylor ­ Opus V, was built for the late Dr. Willard A. Palmer in 1979, by Dr. A. Cecil Taylor, a dentist from Houston who was also a harpsichord aficionado. It is a two manual instrument with the following disposition 16', 8', 8', 4'. It also has a nasal stop, a peau de buffle stop and English lute stops. This magnificent instrument adorns the stage of the Hanni Strahl Concert Hall. More instrumnets will be added as the documentation and pictures are made available.
Above left: the instrument of Guido Deiro
Above right: the instrument of Pietro Deiro 

 
Deiro Instruments: These two historic accordions were installed with much fanfare in A World of Accordions Museum at 1401 Belknap Street in Superior, Wisconsin, on Sunday April 3, 2005 when the author of the following historical material Dr. Henry Doktorski delivered the instruments and performed on them in concert. 
 
The two instruments were donated to A World of Accordions Museum by Guido's son, Count Guido Roberto Deiro (in collaboration with Dr. Allan A. Atlas, curator of the Deiro Archive at the Center for the Study of Free-Reed Instruments at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York), and Pietro's granddaughter, Sandra Deiro Cattani.
 
The accordions which the two Deiro brothers played were built by the Guerrini Company in San Francisco operated by Pasquale Petromilli, Antonio Petromilli, Finan Piatanese and Colombo Piatanesi. These instruments were quite different from the modern accordions we are used to hearing and playing today. They had no tone chambers, so their sound was brighter.
 
Like modern accordions, they had four sets of reeds for the right hand, but they were organized differently from today’s instruments which contain one set of low reeds (bassoon) which sounds one octave lower than written, two sets of middle reeds (violin) which sound as written, and one set of high reeds (piccolo) which sounds one octave higher than written. Guido and Pietro’s instruments had one set of low reeds and three sets of middle reeds, which were all dry-tuned, unlike the wet-tuned French musette accordion. There were no piccolo reeds in these early instruments. The reeds were made from steel.
 
Guido’s instrument (stamped on the reed blocks with the date “June 3, 1926” and the names “P. Petromilli & C. Piatanesi”) had a right-hand keyboard of 41 notes, beginning from A below middle C to B three octaves higher. Pietro’s instrument (stamped on the reed blocks with the date “June 6, 1917” and also with the names “P. Petromilli & C. Piatanesi”) had a right-hand keyboard of 39 notes, beginning from G below middle C to A three octaves higher. The black keys were narrower than the black keys on modern instruments.
 
Pietro’s instrument had 120 bass and chord buttons like the modern accordion, but Guido’s instrument had 140 buttons which included an extra row of augmented chord buttons. There were three reed blocks for the left-hand, encompassing sixty pitches (a range of five octaves). The lowest pitch on Guido’s bass buttonboard was a C two octaves below middle C. Pietro’s instrument descended three pitches lower: to an A.
 
Both instruments had a register shift operated by the thumb along the back of the right-hand keyboard. It had two settings: (1) the master stop in which all four sets of reeds sounded, and (2) the violin stop, which pushed an aluminum plate across the air holes and blocked the bassoon reeds, thereby permitting only the three sets of middle reeds to sound.
 
Contemporary reviewers were amazed by the sound of Guido’s instrument, “Deiro gives to the accordion the sonorousness of the organ and at the same time the exquisiteness and subtleness of the violin.” (Undated newspaper clipping, ca. 1910-1912, from the Guido Deiro Scrapbook, Book 1)
 
Guido’s accordion had a mute for the left-hand manual, a two-position switch operated by the left-hand thumb on the back panel of the instrument which opened or closed a series of round portholes on the back panel. Pietro’s instrument had a brass air-bar instead of an air button, which allowed him to blow out or suck in extra air through the bellows if needed no matter where his hand lay up or down the button-board. Guido’s instrument had two air buttons, located at each end of the bass panel.
Dr. Willard Palmer's Titano Super V - Emperor
 
This was the last instrument owned by Willard Palmer, and made especially to his specifications. Produced under the brand name Palmer espoused, the unique accordion was manufactured by the Pigini company and refined in Titano’s New York workshops. It features an extended treble keyboard with four conventional sets of reeds and a fifth bank that applies optional quint reeds to every shift. The bass section has 160 buttons in eight rows and a double converter between Stradella and Free-Bass that descends to C2.
The “pedal” basses are equipped with a sustaining action controlled by shift. The instrument has internal pick-ups for amplification and is equipped with MIDI electronics. Its size is deep and large, resulting is a weight of 36 lbs.
 
This instrument is unique among the 1,300 accordions in A World of Accordions Museum. Indeed, it is the only one of its kind ever made. We consider it the finest instrument in the museum. Playing it is uniquely inspiring and affords the performer resources and subtleties that enhance interpretations and musical imagination.

Christian DiMaccio's Hohner Accordion 
 
Christian DiMaccio (1941-1993) was born in 1941 in Algiers to an Italian father and Spanish mother and he was already playing the accordion by age of three years old. He demonstrated an outstanding predisposition for music from his early years and at the age of six he could already sight ready and complete scores on his accordion. 
 
Christian competed in the CIA Coupe Mondiale in 1955 in Brighton - UK, 1957 in Saarbrucken - Germany where he placed 3rd and also in 1959 in New York where he also placed 3rd. He led a very successful musical life which included a performance for Igor Stravinsky who afterwards declared that "The accordion has found its genius at last!" Christian was considered by many to be "the accordionist of the century!"
 
After emigrating to the USA in the late 60's, he soon attracted many successful composers into what would become lasting working partnerships. First with John Williams with whom he worked on the score to the film Home Alone and then Michel Legrand for the compositions of the Barbara Streisand Album.
 
Christian appeared throughout the USA and during a tour of Canada Tommy Dorsey proposed that he should do the first part of the Frank Sinatra show at New York's Carnegie Hall.
 
After spending time in Canada, Christian returned to Los Angeles where he gave many concerts and was involved in recording a number of film scores including Star Wars. Considered by the finest musicians on both sides of the Atlantic as the best technician of the accordion ever, Christian DiMaccio deployed his great sensitivity and his immense talent in the service of all forms of music.

 


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