THE HISTORY OF THE ACCORDION

                         The accordion (the Italian name "fisarmonica" is
                         derived from the German word "Physharmonikaz," a
                         compound name coming from the Greek word "Physa" -
                         bellows - and "Harmonikos" - harmonic) is a musical
                         instrument operated by air pressure, belonging to the
                         family of the aerophones. It consists of three
different parts: the right hand keyboard for the melody, the bellows, and the
left hand keyboard (or buttons) for the accompaniment.

The accordion's sound is produced by the
reed, a small metal plate on which a thin steel
strip is mounted that oscillates with the
movement of the air produced by the
compression of the bellows. The following
three models are the most popular accordion
types: on the "diatonic" model, the sound
produced when the bellows are opened is
different to that produced when they are closed; the "chromatic" model allows
the complete range of twelve sounds to be played (this model also has
"buttons" on the right hand keyboard); the "piano" accordion has a right hand
keyboard that is very similar to a piano keyboard, with black and white keys.

The accordion, an instrument very close to the heart of generations of Italians,
is a masterpiece of fine mechanics (the more familiar keyboard of a typewriter
is nothing compared to the mechanism which works the bass and chord valves)
and of fluid dynamics Oust think of the airtightness of the bellows and of the
valves that open and close the access of air into the reeds), consisting of some
hundreds of pieces built from a variety of materials, such as fir, maple,
mahogany and walnut wood; metals such as steel, hard aluminum and brass;
precious cashmere, felt and cloth, as well as lamb's hide, kid and leather;
                              celluloid, rubber and virgin wax.

                              The fascinating history of the accordion, coming
                              to life again in this museum that was opened in
                              1981, starts way back 4,500 years ago with the
                              Cheng in China; an instrument using for the first
                              time the free reed, made to vibrate by a source
                              of air.
A copy of that instrument can be seen in the first showcase in the room on the
right, on entering the museum.

     But it was the Viennese Cyril Damian, of Armenian descent who

                               patented the accordion at Paris, on the 6th of
                               May, 1829; a small four octave instrument that
                               was to be the basis for the development of an
                               absolutely revolutionary musical instrument. A
                               reproduction of the original patent is shown on a
                               photographic panel in the entrance hall of the
                               Museum, near Paola Soprani's portrait the
                               founder of the Italian accordion industry.

In Italy the accordion appeared for the first time in 1863. A pilgrim passing
through the territory of Castelfidardo on his pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of
the "Black Madonna" of Loreto, stopped by chance in Antonio Soprani's

He was carrying a rudimentary music box with him; The Accordion, a queer
object arousing the curiosity of Paolo Soprani, Antonio's eldest son. Young
Paolo opened the instrument, disassembled it and immediately perceived the
possibility to build other similar items. The accordion was given to him as a
present, and the ex-farmer soon successfully opened a small handicraft
laboratory and sold the aesthetically and musically improved product mainly in
nearby Loreto, the destination of a
continuous, considerable flow of pilgrims.

So was born, between history and legend,
the Italian accordion industry. Thirteen
years later, in 1876, at Stradella near Pavia,
Mariano Dallape, born at Cavedine del
Trentino,     also   started   to    produce
considerable quantities of accordions, made
in view of the curiosity aroused by Damian's
Accordion in Tirol.

Soprani and Dallape did not know each other and never met, but they both had
the same intuition as far as the development of the musical instrument is
concerned; first improving the Viennese patent, succeeded in making the
instrument known in all areas of the country; the second prepared the way for
the modern accordion by applying basic innovations.
From these two centers of development, but especially from Castelfidardo, the
construction of the accordion expanded very quickly, also thanks to the large
number of craftsmen who first worked in the two pioneers' laboratories and
then started production on their own. In 1865, Cesare Pancotti opened the
second Italian factory at Macerata; Settimio Soprani, one of Paolo's brothers,
followed in 1872 with a new laboratory at Castelfidardo, Giovanni Chiusaroli at
Recanati in 1886, and Sante Crucianelli at Castelfidardo in 1888.

                      There was an extraordinary growth of new laboratories
                       during the last decade of the 19th century, Luigi and
                           Georgio Savoia started their activity at San Giovanni
                           in Croce (CR), Guiseppe de Bernardi at Diano Marina
                          (IM), Guiseppe Janni at Guilianova (TE), Pasquale
                          Ficosecco at Castelfidardo, Antonio Ranco at Vercelli,
                          Ercole Maga at Stradella, Fidele Socin at Bolzano, and
                          the Scandalli brothers at Camerano (AN). The
                          popularity of the accordion started to arouse the
interest also in great musicians who started to write interesting musical pieces
for this instrument. In 1883, Petr Ific Ciaikovski introduced a piece for
accordion in his "Suite No. 2 in C Major." In 1898, Umberto Giodano used the
accordion during the third act of his "Fedora," -Alban Berg in the first act of
his 'Wozzele' and, more recently, there has been Darius Milhaud and Dmiri

During the first years of this century the accordion starts to get better known
all over the world. In France, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in Russia, and in
the Americas it was already known among the middle classes, but the middle-
lower classes also started to appreciate it
thanks to the Italian emigrants. As a matter of
fact, the latter have been the real propagators
of the accordion; very often those emigrants
trying to find a job, especially in the Americas,
brought the accordion with them, to make them
feet nearer to their homes, to their families
and to their far away native country when
listening to its music.

After the invention of celluloid in the United States of America and with the
use of mother-of-pearl, the aesthetics of the instrument changed, and some of
the items exhibited in this Museum demonstrate how the art of mosaics,
applied to the accordion, sometimes reaches excellent levels.
The year 1953 was undoubtedly the year of the largest expansion of accordion
production and marketing. As a matter of fact, the instruments exported from
Italy totaled 200,000 pieces, and the same quantity was exported from
German. During recent years the development of electronics has had its
influence also on our popular instrument Felice Fugazza, a music composer and
teacher at the Bologna Conservatory was the first to introduce transistors into
the accordion in 1960.

Today the instrument has thousands of fans all over the world and for several
years now, especially in the East European countries, it has earned the right of
entry into the Conservatories.

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