Classical duo find professional harmony

Thomas Gould (violin) and Ksenija Sidorova (classical accordion)
Thomas Gould (violin) and Ksenija Sidorova (classical accordion)

Thomas Gould (violin) and Ksenija Sidorova (classical accordion) had to put behind them the most inauspicious of starts to their musical collaboration.

The duo perform at the Petworth Festival on Saturday, August 2, at 12pm in St Mary’s Church, Petworth.

But things weren’t quite so harmonious when they first met.

“I met Ksenija when we were both studying at the Royal Academy of Music, probably in my last year there, 2005 or 2006. It was a bit unfortunate for one of us, I forget which. But we had both booked a practice room. The Royal Academy of Music never had enough practice rooms, so it is all very fiercely aggressive to find a room, and one or other of us ended up kicking the other one out! It was a miracle that we recovered from such a tricky opener!

“But we didn’t play together for years and years. We started playing together two years ago. It was because Ksenija needed a violinist to record Oblivion by Piazzolla for a disc. It was recorded. I turned up, and we met in the recording studio. It was of those very practical recording sessions where you don’t really rehearse together before the actual session. We just met on the day and hit it off really well. It’s since then that we have been doing recitals. I had heard great things about her and decided to give it a go.

“The idea was just to discover the repertoire that we could play together. There is very little repertoire written for these two instruments, but the accordion is such a versatile instrument. Accordionists can transcribe anything almost, and in that sense, the repertoire possibilities are quite extensive.

“I think it also works because of the mixture of our personalities, and I think audiences tend to pick up on the fact that we enjoy working together. There is an easy chemistry between us, and I think audiences can sense that and they enjoy that, but we are quite different in lots of ways. Our backgrounds, as you can imagine, are very different. Ksenija is Latvian, and I am from London. I do a lot more orchestral playing than she does. She is much more your typical soloist, travelling a lot and taking taxis everywhere. I always feel quite unglamorous compared to her. My feet are quite firmly on the ground doing all the unglamorous side of orchestral playing – though my main focus is as a solo violinist.”

For Petworth, they will be playing Schnittke’s Suite in the old style; Bach’s Sonata for Violin and Keyboard in G; Bartok’s Romanian Folk Dances; Piazzolla’s Cafe 1930 and Oblivion; and Monti’s Czardas.

As Thomas says, it’s a programme which shows how well the two instruments work together.

In the Bach, the harpsichord part works incredibly well on the accordion, Thomas says.

“And the Bartok works even better on accordion than it would on piano because it adds that extra percussive folky brittleness and sounds much more authentic.

“And the Piazzolla pieces are absolutely with the sound of the accordion and violin in mind.”

Thomas also enjoys the fact that this is a lunchtime concert: “It’s less formal, and it is maybe a bit more fun as well. I have always enjoyed doing lunchtime concerts.”

And while you could argue that maybe the Piazzolla pieces are better suited to a concert spinning on into the early hours of the morning, as Thomas says, there probably wouldn’t be the public transport in Petworth at that time!”

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