The accordion might be associated with doleful buskers and punishing polkas. But now a Latvian star who learned her trade in London is threatening to make the traditional squeezebox sexy.
Ksenija Sidorova, a genre-crossing player described as “the princess of the accordion”, has signed an exclusive deal with the classical label Deutsche Grammophon, which plans to market her as a crossover star.
The Riga-born Sidorova, who was encouraged to take up the instrument by her grandmother, continued her education in Britain, where she became a prize-winning undergraduate at the Royal Academy of Music.
Her debut album is an ambitious recreation of Carmen for the accordion, incorporating Latin, Asian, European and North American musical styles, which is driven by her identification with Bizet’s free-spirited femme fatale.
Ms Sidorova, praised by one reviewer as a “superbly subtle and virtuosic” player, has already performed her version of “Roxanne” with Sting and Bryn Terfel, and duetted with the violinist Nicola Benedetti.
Sidorova’s rise coincides with a “hipster” rediscovery of the bellows-based instrument, developed in its modern form in Europe in the 19th century.
Arcade Fire and The Decemberists are among the bands which have incorporated the instrument into their eclectic sound, following the example of Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and REM.
Ms Sidorova, who will unveil her Carmen at concerts in Bristol and Cheltenham in July, said: “It was amazing to perform with Sting and Bryn Terfel. That experience strengthened my belief that it’s time to take the accordion to places it has never been and to reach new audiences. Carmen, which is so important to me, has the power to do that.”
The album, to be released in June, will “let Carmen speak with a different voice. The accordion doesn’t have to breathe like a singer, so there are no restrictions to what I can do with this music. I could be daring and passionate, just like Carmen.”
Ms Sidorova’s repertoire includes new compositions and new accordion arrangements of pieces by Bach, Mozart and Scarlatti. “I love performing modern works and new commissions,” she said. “But I feel it is my mission now to introduce the accordion to a large audience. My heart enjoys playing many different styles of music and I want to share this experience with as many people as possible.”
Ute Fesquet, Deutsche Grammophon’s A&R vice-president, said: “In Ksenija’s hands the accordion becomes more than an instrument – it is her voice.”
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