(Reprint of an Interview conducted by Tom Fabinski, Classical Free-Reed, Inc., May 2000)

"Materializing" my ideal inner imagination ...

Tom Fabinski: It's been a joy to listen to your wide-ranging musical repertoire. Please share with our readers what draws you to these various musical genres. Do you feel any special affinity to a particular musical style?

Stefan Hussong (SH): Actually it's the instrument's capability, which draws me to these various musical genres. The accordion has so many possibilities, colours etc., that reveal to me always some new side and that makes me "testing" them with different musical styles. Yes, I have a special affinity to good contemporary, baroque and pre-baroque music. But my absolute favourite is the music of Schubert, which can't and shouldn't be played on the Accordion (unfortunately).

What brought you to record John Cage? It seems like an unusual departure for someone who has the technique to do Bach. Was your motivation a desire to simplify away from the technical demands of classical music? Did you have difficulty convincing Denon of the "Dream" project?

SH: Cage's music always fascinated me, since I got in touch with traditional japanese Gagaku-music during my studies in Tokyo in 1989. I love Cage's concept of "indetermination", which is so different from many (tight-controlled) contemporary music tendencies in middle Europe (Darmstadt school etc.). His beautiful sounds and "misterious" approach to time and timing, his open minded way of experimenting with sound and his generosity towards art in general are quite unique and make him one of the most creative artists in the 20th century. His pieces for Sho, the music for violin and keyboard (which I recorded with Irvine Arditti) as well as the pieces recorded in the "DREAM"-project are perfect for the instrument. Simplifying? I don't think, these pieces are simple at all, they just use less notes than Bach ...
ConviConvincing Denon? Cage is much better known in Asia and Europe, than in the States. My producer agreed right away to the Dream-project. He even played the Conch-shell at one piece (his major instrument is usually the Saxophone) ...

Have you studied any music written for the sheng or sho?

SH: Yes, I have studied the japanese Sho for a while at the Tokyo Geijutsu Daigaku (Tokyo State University) with the japanese Sho-player Mayumi Miyata. The Sho or Sheng is the real ancestor of all free-reed instruments, and many pieces by contemporary japanese and korean composers refer to that "relationship".

Which of your recordings has generated the most interest?

SH: Piazzolla-Revolucionario (I got the Echo classic prize for that last year), Bach Goldberg-Variations and Partitas, and Cage.

When did you begin studying accordion? When did you think about pursuing a career as a performing accordionist?

SH: I started to play the instrument at the age of four and began my studies in 1980. Career as a performing accordionist? Well, my activities are divided between playing, teaching, working with composers, doing workshops, recording and - recently - filming. I don't think of myself just as a performing accordionist pursuing a career or so ... too early and too "limited" to speak of that ...

Do you teach many accordion students in Germany? What are the opportunities for accordionists in Germany?

SH: I do teach regularily at the Würzburg university (Hochschule für Musik) 12 hours a week. Otherwise I do master-courses in Salzburg, Florenz and Berlin once a year.
In Germany, we have 12 universities, where you can study the Accordion as a major. After graduation most students do teach at (municipal) musicschools, or get jobs somehow connected with accordion orchestras (conducting and teaching), some of them play in New Music ensembles (there are about 20 professional New Music ensembles in Germany), have their own small chamber music groups, do theater-work or are members of Tango- and Klezmer-bands.

Do you teach many accordion students in Germany? What are the opportunities for accordionists in Germany?

SH: I do teach regularily at the Würzburg university (Hochschule für Musik) 12 hours a week. Otherwise I do mastercourses in Salzburg, Florenz and Berlin once a year.
In Germany, we have 12 universities, where you can study the Accordion as a major. After graduation most students do teach at (municipal) musicschools, or get jobs somehow connected with Acc.orchestras (conducting and teaching), some of them play in New music ensembles (there are about 20 professional Newmusic-ensembles in Germany), have their own small chamber music groups, do theater-work or are members of Tango- and Klezmer-bands.

When you perform in Europe and Asia, are you performing in small ensembles or solo? Do you have opportunities to perform with symphonies?

SH: Both, solo and chamber music. Very often with string-players (Vln, Vc.). Once a year I try to premiere a concerto (with symphonies), otherwise I am a free member of some new music ensemble (Ensemble modern, Musikfabrik etc.)

You perform on a Hohner Gola free-bass instrument. How did you acquire your Gola? Do you think it's important that the accordion's resonance be increased on scale like that of the violin which produces a lot more sound with a smaller, but acoustically resonant sound box?

SH: I bought my Golas in 1982 and 1997. They were built in 1967 and 1968 by Giovanni Gola himself. I also play sometimes on a czech Delicia from Praha, especially when I play Renaissance and pre-baroque music (see my Frescobaldi CD). I think the accordion's sound quality hasn't improved very much or rather hasn't improved at all, since these instruments were built, due to a lack of interest on behalf of the factories as well as most of the accordion-players, who seem to be more attracted by the system (button, keyboard, bajan etc.), than by the sound. In my opinion, it is not necessary to have more sound, but better sound!!!

Have you ever played a bandoneon?

SH: No, the Bandoneon uses a completely different system, which needs a hell a lot of practising to play it really well.

Since you play a piano accordion, are there any pieces that would be easier to play on the chromatic accordion? Can you please discuss the two keyboard styles and why the piano accordion became more accepted in Germany.

SH: There are no pieces that would be easier to play on the chromatic accordion, not at all, do you have that impression? The two keyboard systems are a matter of historic development of the instrument. Up to now, none of them can claim to be better or not (even if some people like to defend one system against the other), it's much too early to discuss that. As I said before, caring about sound and good music for our instrument would be much healthier, than getting taken away by ten buttons/keys more or less.

I don't hear any stradella in your recordings. How often do you use stradella? 10% of the time or less? Why not use an all free-bass instrument?

SH: There are pieces using quite a lot of Stradella but not in any known way (i.e. Lindberg - Jeux d'anches / Berio-Sequenza XIII). I did use much Stradella in my "Tango-Fantasy" Record. Why should I "abandon" Stradella, when it's there and I can make use out of it once in a while (try to play 3 octaves on the Solobass!!! I rather push one button of Stradella instead).

Do you play Zolotaryev and the Russian school? What do you think of this music?

SH: I love Shostakowitsch, Moussorgsky, Stravinsky, Gubajdulina, Denisov, Schnittke, Ustvolskaya and Tschaikowsky. Great composers! That is russian school!

In America, the accordion has, I believe, finally shrugged off its low-brow stereotyped image. This change in approval is partly due to Piazzolla of course, but also due to the popularity of Zydeco, Klezmer and other world music. Can you comment on the ascendancy of the accordion in America and the role of the accordion in other parts of the world.

SH: Oh, no, that's almost a whole book. Please ask somebody else.

I enjoyed your recording with Tamako Kato of Bach and Piazzolla and was disappointed to find out that you did not obtain a U.S. release. So there is obviously still some additional work that we accordionists in the U.S. need to do to raise the musical conscience of our audience. How has this recording done in Europe? Can you provide ordering information?

SH: That recording has been released neither in Europe nor America due to a restructuring of the "overseas sales system of DENON". It should come out this or latest next month.

You seem to plan your recordings very carefully. Do you regard them as a complete listening experience to be heard in one setting?

SH: I love doing records and try to be always very well prepared before each session. Recording is for me an art-form, where I can "materialize" my ideal inner imagination of a musical work. All of my records are indeed "planned" as a complete listening experience in one setting.

Can you give us a hint what your next musical project might be?

SH: Last year I have recorded in Japan a Duo-CD (called : TWOGETHER) with my colleague Mie Miki on DENON. We played: Bach c-major concerto BWV 1061a; A. Soler Concierto No. 6, Mozart KV 594; Takemitsu-Cross talk (+tape); Tiensuu-Aion and Piazzolla-Ballett Tango (Arr. for 2 Acc.). The recording was a lot of fun and is going to be quite a special CD. We also did an one hour movie about that collaboration with a German TV channel.

Do you have any plans for another entirely modern recording like "Whose Song?"

SH: Yes, 4 weeks ago I recorded a CD with exclusively female composers with works by Adriana Hölszky ('High Way' for Acc. + orchestra), Keiko Harada ('Bone+' for Acc.), S. Gubajdulina ('de profundis'), Hyunkyung Lim ('Me-A-Ri' for Acc. solo) and Babette Koblenz ('Sans Soleil' for Acc. solo).

You seem to enjoy discovering new music and supporting new composers. Have you considered commissioning any composers or arrangers to write for the accordion?

SH: Up to date I have commissioned about 50 pieces. I try to premiere at least 5 pieces every year. I think, that's essential for a young instrument like the accordion and, fortunately, most of my colleagues do that too. Next upcoming premieres are solo- and chamber-music pieces by T. Suzuki (Oct. 30th, Cologne), H. Lim (Jan. 2001 Bremen), Concertos for Acc. and orch. by Toshio Hosokawa (Dec. 5th, Paris), Adriana Hölszky (Dec. 11th, Saarbrücken), Uros Rojko (Spring 2001, Berlin).

What country in your experience is strongest right now in producing young accordionists? And in which country do you receive the most favorable audiences?

SH: Young accordionists: Finland and Germany. Countries with highly interested audience: Japan and Korea.

Who are some of your favorite accordionists?

SH: No comments on colleagues. But if you insist, the ones, who are first musicians and second accordionists.

What do you think the accordion needs to continue its musical elevation?

SH: Good education, will mean: good musicians. Good pieces. Better sounding instruments.

Do you have any plans to tour in the U.S.?

SH: I was just touring the U.S. in February together with a cellist friend of mine (Julius Berger). We played Bach, Bloch, Gubajdulina, Hölszky, Soler, Frescobaldi and Piazzolla in Atlanta, New York, Oak Ridge and some other smaller towns.

Our staff loves your artistry and thinks you're the finest accordion player ever! Other players are fabulous in their own way, but no one plays with more expressiveness and virtuosity!
On behalf of our readers, my thanks to you for sharing your time and thoughts. And in behalf of the entire staff at the Classical Free-Reed I wish you much continued success in your musical career!

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