The Bandoneon

H. Berlioz distinguishes in 1844 between ``le Concertina Anglais'' and ``le Concertina Allemand'' but dedicates a detailed description only to the first since the keyboard of the German instruments depended upon the caprice of the builder. The confusion persisted also in Germany but was finished at the end of the 1850's when the term Bandonion was introduced in the region of Krefeld, Mainz and Cologne while in Bavaria the term Concertina dominated.. The instruments from Saxony and Thüringen were continued to be chromatic harmonikas while sold to English and French spoken countries as concertinas and to the Rhineland as bandoneons (but with a distinct layout of the keyboard). After 1860 an additional Konzertina keyboard system was introduced in Munich perhaps by F. Stahl first with 30 buttons, later with up to 60 buttons but which were close to the system of Band. May be this system was the basis for the later Bayrisches Schrammelbandonion of Strobl with 132, 136 and 180 voices.

In Leipzig a magazine for bandonion music established in 1895 was renamed after a year to Allgemeine Concertina- und Bandonion-Zeitung demonstrating the similarities among both instrument types. On the other hand, in 1895 there existed about 18 bandonion clubs in Leipzig and no one concertina club while using their players instruments of Wünsch, successor of Uhlig the inventor of the German Concertina. This shows that concertinas were called bandonions there. Wünsch himself describes in 1890: ``This instrument (bandonion) is becoming more and more known so that all instruments with 88 to 260 voices are now called bandoneons.'' (The number has to be divided by two since instruments with double chorus are meant). In the beginning of our century a distinction between the rheinisch on one side and Chemnitzer and Karlsfelder on the other is established.

The fast propagation of the bandoneon was based on a clever marketing. Besides the distribution of the instruments labeled BANDONION in big letters forming the good visible valve plaque on front of the instrument, Heinrich Band formed a merchant chain with members of his family giving lessons and distributing a huge number of scores and sheet music for his instrument and chamber music. So in 1859 his brother Johann established a shop in Cologne. Other existed in Mainz, Krefeld, Glasgow? and New York. In the time from 1868 to 1881 there existed a special section for bandoneon music in Hofmeister's Manual of sheet music with separate divisions for harmonica, accordion and konzertina. Because all the instruments were manufactured in Saxony, the factories there expanded simultaneously. They tried to copy Band's strategy and designed valve plaques saying CONCERTINA for the instruments they sold directly and until the end of the century the old term harmonika disappeared. Finally in the 20's the outer design of both instrument became the same. The polygonal shaped instruments were only the smaller 1 or 2-row ones with a limited number of voices. In many parts of Germany the term Konzertina was displaced gradually by the newer Bandonion and both terms were used undistinguishable up to the point when the saxonians returned to their own roots and forced their own keyboard system. When in the 20's the discussion about a unified system raised, there was no chance to bring both parties together and in 1924 a Einheitskonzertina (128 voices) was created besides the Einheitsbandonion (144 voices).

Many attempts were made for unisonoric instruments. Charles Péguri from Paris replaced the reed plates of 142 voice rhineisch bandoneons (an Argentine extension of the 130 voice version) with unisonoric ones unprecisely called chromatic bandoneon. This fact simplified the manufacture of instruments suitable for musette players. The construction of the Kusserow bandoneon with a different button layout was not as popular.

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last update: 2017-02-07

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