The Musical Role of the Concertina

The new instrument, which by 1850 was being produced in tenor, baritone, and bass versions as well as the standard 48-key treble, rapidly assumed a small but significant role in the amateur musical life of London in the 1840s and 1850s. The young melophone virtuoso Giulio Regondi (1822 - 1872), though achieving somewhat greater fame as a guitarist, took up the concertina and toured Germany performing on the instrument in 1846, and wrote a large body of works for it, including concertos and many arrangements. It was also composed for by Molique, Silas, Macfarren, et al, and Berlioz devoted some space to the concertina in his work on instrumentation, though criticised its tuning in mean-tone temperament.

Throughout the 1850s, there were many London concerts by The Concertina Quartet, which performed throughout that decade. The Quartet was made up of Regondi, his friend Richard Blagrove, a professor of the viola who adopted the concertina as an extra instrument, A B Sedgwick, a teacher who produced tutor books and many arrangements for the concertina, and lastly George Case, another 'Professor' of the instrument who produced many tutors and arrangements, and who from 1851 to around 1856 had his own concertina manufactory at 32 New Bond Street. Blagrove performed in the Hanover Square Rooms in 1846, at age 16, and from 1853 produced the Concertina Journal. Macfarren wrote his Concertina Quintet and his two Romances for Concertina and Pianoforte for Blagrove, who performed with his wife at Windsor before royalty.

George and J Case gave a concert in May 1851, reported by the Musical Times as being 'principally remarkable for Rossini's Overture to William Tell, arranged for 12 concertinas specially for the occasion - the violoncello solo on the bass concertina' (Ref 21).

In April 1849 Sedgwick and one Joseph Scates (one of Wheatstone's reed tuners in 1844, and by this date in business as a rival concertina maker and teacher), gave a 'Concertina Soiree' at the Hanover Square Rooms, the programme 'composed principally of music executed by Professors of the concertina, as many as seventeen taking part in it' (Ref 22).

In August 1876, the Musical Times reports: 'Mr Richard Blagrove's ten concertina concerts......have proved in the highest degree interesting, not only as demonstrating of how much these instruments are capable in the hands of experienced performers, but as really good specimens of artistic and well-considered entertainments of chamber music. Concertos, Septetts, Quartetts, Trios and Duets by the best composers have been constantly included in the programmes, and these, executed by thoroughly competent players upon the treble, tenor, bass and double bass concertinas, have been received by most appreciative audiences....should there be any surplus, a Concertina Fund will be formed for the purpose of getting works written expressly for these instruments' (Ref 23).

(21) The Musical Times, May 1851.

(22) The Musical Times, April 1849.

(23) The Musical Times, August 1876.

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