Iffley Music Society

Church Hall Iffley

By Giles Woodforde

Was it the unusual combination of composers, or the even more unusual combination of instruments? Or maybe both? Either way, I wasn’t the only one to be attracted by the first concert in Iffley Music Society’s new season — the Church Hall was packed.

First up was violinist Harriet Mackenzie playing Bach’s Sonata in G major, BWV 1021. Nothing strange about that, but have you heard it accompanied by classical accordion? Milos Milivojevic made the combination sound entirely natural, his accordion sounding exactly like a chamber organ in the Andante and Adagio movements, while the interleaving pair of Allegros brought out the instrument’s more usual dance-accompaniment qualities. Meanwhile Mackenzie spun a broad and expressive violin line over the top.

As the classical accordion has two sets of buttons, it’s possible to play separate lines of a piece simultaneously, Milivojevic explained. He demonstrated this to stunning effect in the chorale and variations from Mendelssohn’s Organ Sonata no 6. Milivojevic built up the sound exactly as you would on an organ, leaving no doubt that the sonata was strongly influenced by Bach: the decorated and skittish variations translated to the accordion particularly well.

A change of gear next, as Mackenzie and Milivojevic switched to Piazolla’s Histoire de Tango. Beginning with insistent police sirens (Mackenzie relishes the chance to produce a grand flourish on her violin) Piazollo takes the tango from the Argentine brothels of 1900 through to nightclub respectability 60 years later, adding much dazzle and humour along the way, as well as hints of sadness. Two other composers made brief appearances too: Paganini with his tear-jerking Cantabile, and Sarasate with his heart-on-sleeve Zigeunerweisen.

Throughout their colourful and varied programme it was very clear that Mackenzie and Milivojevic are bonded by a strong musical chemistry, as well as being consummate artists. This unusual concert was a real treat.