Perhaps it wasn't clinically depressed, but it was certainly sad. It's bellows sagged, it's lower registers were flat, and the keys didn't spring back quickly when they were depressed. Probably just homesickness. After all, it had not been home for nearly seventy-five years. So Jun Hayakawa bought his bandoneón a ticket to go home to that tiny corner of German Saxony where it was born and he accompanied it on its journey.
They arrived in Klingenthal, Germany in early May. Klingenthal is arguably the birthplace of free reed instruments like concertinas, bandoneóns and accordions. According to Dan Worrall's book, The Ango-German Concertina, A Cultural History, the Glier brothers, living in the Klingenthal area, were among the first to put a housing around an aeolina making what we might recognize today as a harmonica. They put it into production in 1829. Carl Friedrich Uhlig in nearby Chemnitz, took the next step in 1835 adding buttons and a bellows. But serious production did not get underway until Carl Friedrich Zimmermann built a factory near Carlsfeld, about 10 km northeast of Klingenthal. I refer you to Christian Mensing's wonderful Bandoneón Page for the details of the rest of the story but the bottom line is that most of the bandoneóns played today came out of that factory and its descendents in Carlsfeld. That includes the fine bandoneón of Mr. Hayakawa which, I am happy to report, shed all signs of depression as soon as its bellows filled with the fresh Erzgebirge air in Klingenthal.
Secondarily, Hayakawa traveled from his home in Japan to Klingenthal, Germany to participate in the 49th annual Accordion Festival there. This is one of the more important accordion festivals in the world and almost certainly, the oldest. We do not have a video of his performance at Klingenthal, but we do have videos of him rehearsing, perhaps in the breakfast room of his hotel, including today's featured video of Libertango. I was unprepared for the virtuosity demonstrated in this video. Hayakawa has been a student of the most famous Japanese bandoneónist, Ryota Komatsu, among others, but I believe he has surpassed the technical skills of his master. He has lightening speed, detailed bellows control, plays equally well on push and draw, maintains complex rhythms with either hand, employs a broad range of dynamics and uses complex but totally appropriate chords. Hayakawa has laid down the gauntlet for other bandoneón players - let's see them top that performance. And it is not just that he can play fast, he can play with feeling also - watch his version of the classic La casita de mis viejos.
I was shocked to learn that he came in third at the Klingenthal festival with first place going to Wu Yung-Lung from Taiwan and second place going to Gierster Lukas from Germany. There is a video of Wu playing at the contest and he is indeed a superb bandoneónist. But, if there is ever a rematch - perhaps at Castelfidardo in September?- I'll put my money on Hayakawa.
Incidentally, they still build very fine bandoneons in Klingenthal.
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