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First Play: Alexander Sevastian, J.S. Bach, Famous Works

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Robert Rowat

"If it's played well, [Bach's music] can sound good on any instrument," says accordionist Alexander Sevastian.

On J.S. Bach: Famous Works — streaming in the player to your left until its release on Oct. 13 on Analekta Records — Sevastian proves yet again that Bach's music is universal, from the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, to Air on the G String. "All you have to do is be very rhythmic and consistent with dynamics and articulation," he adds.

He makes it sound easy, but it doesn't hurt that he's a total master of his instrument. Probably best known for his work with Quartetto Gelato, Sevastian won the 2007 Coupe Mondiale International Accordion Competition and has revealed himself to be a dazzling soloist in concert and on two previous Analekta albums (Tango Dreams and Russian Favourites).

"[Bach's] writing doesn't specify the tempos, dynamics, articulation, expression or sometimes even the instrument," he tells us, underlining how open this repertoire is to interpretation.

A Canadian citizen since 2005, Sevastian was born in Minsk, Belarus, and says the works on this album are commonly played on the accordion in Europe. "After hearing them many times, I decided to come up with a new interpretation of them."

'Greatness and majesty'

Sevastian is especially attracted by the structure of Bach's music. "The themes in his fugues and countermelodies combine so well on a multi-layer sound palette, so you can hear a melody, a bass and accompaniment at the same time. You can even dance to his fugues but at the same time you can feel the greatness and majesty of Bach's music that became eternal."

Unfortunately, preparations for the album were fraught with personal tragedy. Last year, Sevastian's father, Mikhail, an amateur accordionist who had been continuously supportive of his son's career, died in a highway accident at the age of 69.

"Bach's music helped me a lot to go through the hard times," reflects Sevastian, who has dedicated his album to his father's memory.

J.S. Bach: Famous Works will be released on Oct. 13. Pre-order it here.

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