(continue from Jules, Why? – 1)
Another mystery about Regondi: why did he pick up the concertina? And, if he needed a second instrument, why the concertina? It’s so unfair: Regondi ended up writing two concerti and a method book for the concertina, but not for the guitar.
(At least there are pictures of young Regondi with a guitar. I don’t think I have ever seen a picture of Regondi playing the concertina.)
Was Regondi’s adoption of the concertina a complaint to the guitar’s shortcomings? Low volume, limited repertoire, lack of works composed by “big-name composers”, inability to utilize distantly related key areas and chromatic keys (“We Hate the Guitar” by Erik Stenstadvold gave a lot more insights in how negatively the guitar was viewed in 19th century Europe in general).
In his article in Grove Music Online, Thomas Heck mentioned Regondi played an 8-string guitar, which was quite common for a lot of 19th century guitarists – Carulli, Legnani, Coste, Mertz. The 8-string guitar does extend the guitar’s range, but it doesn’t practically solve any of the issues mentioned above. Was playing the 8-string an intermediate step to picking up the Concertina? Fortunately, Regondi did not give up the guitar entirely – he would play both instruments in concerts. So, the love for guitar was still there.
I got more insights from the obituaries for Regondi published in The Musical World, as well as the radio show, Wheatstone, His Sighing Reed, and The Great Regondi—BBC Radio4 Programme. Charles Wheatstone was an English scientist who also invented instruments. And when he needed a music virtuoso to be the “ambassador” of his newly invented concertina, he asked Regondi’s foster father A. Regondi if he knew such a musician. A. Regondi happened to have a very musical son.
That might answer why little Giulio have picked up the concertina. Although I make it sound like little Regondi was being exploited by his foster father (as always), he was indeed offered an exclusive chance to try out a new instrument. Guitar was on the decline as Regondi grew up, and perhaps Regondi (or the foster father) saw the opportunity to be a pioneer and spokesman of a newly invented instrument as a possible alternative to a declining guitar career . The concertina also projects better than the guitar, and could be played in a bigger venue with a bigger audience. The louder volume of the concertina probably also explains why did Regondi compose two concerti for the concertina but none for the guitar.
Anyhow, just out of curiosity, I also looked at Regondi’s New Method for the Concertina and Rudimenti del Concertinista to see if his own writings would provide further perspectives. While Regondi did not compare the guitar to the concertina in his method books, the method book does offer a lot of interesting things about the concertina and how Regondi thought of music.
(continue to Jules, Why? – 3)