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Melodeon

Classics
From Morris to Mozart
Sixteen popular classical melodies for the D/G diatonic accordion
arranged by Tony Croft

Published by Tony Croft 2015
www.syzygy-music.co.uk
ISBN 9781517568245


Review

As both a classically trained orchestral clarinettist and a melodeon playing
traditional musician, I was intrigued by the description of Tony Crofts Melodeon
Classics and looked forward to receiving my copy.

This is a really splendid tunebook. They say good things often come in small
packages and although modestly slim, this volume is just that, containing 16
well-chosen and clearly presented pieces from the classical music repertoire.
There is something for everyone here, from relative beginners right up to
advanced players alike.

It is clear that Tony Croft has thought very deeply about his arrangements. In the
Introduction to the book he writes: To my delight, I have found that a melodeon
is far more versatile an instrument than is commonly recognised. In particular, if
one is willing to allow compromise for the limitations of the diatonic instrument,
then some of the much-loved classical repertoire can be adapted for performance
on it. Indeed! Tony has managed these compromises superbly and all the pieces
in this book work very well indeed.

The arrangements all assume a standard 2-row D/G melodeon and work
equally well on a humble Hohner Pokerwork and a more sophisticated posh
box. Many of the players who pick up this book will doubtless be coming from a
traditional music background, used to playing dance music, perhaps for morris
or ceilidhs, perhaps tunes in pub sessions or similar. If they are at all
apprehensive about the possibly unfamiliar content of the book, they can be
immediately reassured by the very first piece the well-known morris tune
Shepherds Hey which provides a link to the classical repertoire by virtue of its
association with composer and arranger Percy Grainger. Tonys arrangement of
this tune introduces his very clear tablature scheme, showing exactly which
buttons to press and which bellows direction is needed. Beginners are further
reassured by the concluding remarks of the Introduction: For those really new
to the melodeon the easier arrangements are numbers 1, 2, 5 and 15. Working
through these first will enable you to gain familiarity with some of the notation
used throughout the rest of the book. The introductory pages also include a brief
explanation of basic music theory and notation, plus useful diagrams of the
melodeon keyboard layout.

Working through Tonys arrangements, it is often necessary to move beyond the
traditional melodeon left hand style of oom-pah bass and chord
accompaniments to something altogether more subtle and effective, frequently

making good use of sustained chords or combinations of chords and bass notes,
or even, in places, no left hand at all. This is a really good learning process and
the player is challenged to think musically about what the left hand is doing.
Similarly, some of the pieces encourage the development of air management
technique with careful control of the bellows and air button needed.

The pieces themselves are well chosen and full of interest, consisting of
arrangements of extracts from instrumental and orchestral works, operatic
excerpts, etc., by a variety of composers including Bach, Vivaldi, Brahms, Dvok,
Mozart and Holst. Some of the pieces are well known, for example the Bach
Minuet (No. 7), others perhaps less so, e.g. Intermezzo from Cavalleria
Rusticana (No. 12), probably the most challenging in the entire book. But I have
found them all enjoyable to work at, and many could be favourably performed to
an audience.

The book is attractively produced, with clear and well-sized typesetting of the
music and tablature. Where needed, Tony has provided succinct but useful
supplementary notes after each piece, for example, hints for alternative
fingerings/buttons, use of air button, etc. The title page includes a reference to
online YouTube videos of Tony performing all the pieces in the book. These are
excellent, and provide additional clarity and guidance for anyone unsure about
interpteting the written music notation.

I have just a very few criticisms. Firstly, there are no tempo markings at all,
which one would normally expect to find at the start of each piece. Unless the
player knows the piece beforehand (or has access to the YouTube videos), there
is no clue about the speed at which the music is to be played. Even broad hints
such as slowly, steady waltz tempo etc., would have been helpful. Secondly, a
grating typographical error has managed to evade proof-reading: No. 11,
Thaxted is, of course, adapted from Holsts Planets Suite (the plural s is
missing from the title). Lastly, and more subtly, in No. 3, the famous cor anglais
solo from Dvoks New World Symphony, the first two beats of bars 7 and 18
are given as a dotted crotchet/quaver rhythm, which is not what Dvok wrote
here they should be straight crotchets, thus preventing the swaying, dotted
rhythm becoming too repetitive and cloying. But these are all relatively minor
points and do not detract unduly from the books overall usefulness, value and
enjoyment.

In summary, Tony Croft is to be congratulated on producing Melodeon Classics.
It is a little gem of a book which will keep melodeon players, whether beginners,
intermediate or advanced, fully engrossed and will provide much enjoyment and
enhancement of their melodeon technique and musical understanding. Highly
recommended!


Steve Dumpleton
December 2015