Pushing the right buttons

French accordionist Vincent Peirani performs at the Eilat Chamber Musical Festival.

French accordionist Vincent Peirani (photo credit: DEAN BENICCI)
French accordionist Vincent Peirani
(photo credit: DEAN BENICCI)
Anyone who has been following the evolution of the Eilat Chamber Musical Festival over the last decade will know that the event tends to offer an eclectic spread of concerts, which cull from different genres and areas of the musical domain.
The upcoming 11th edition, which will take place at the Dan Hotel in our southern resort on February 3 to 6, offers something for practically everyone, with a glittering lineup that takes in ensembles and artists from France, Germany, Holland, Spain, Russia, Belgium and the US, as well as a sizable contingent of our own top professionals.
French accordionist Vincent Peirani has been doing his best to keep his musical offerings as open as possible for the last 15 years, mixing it with some of the top purveyors of jazz, classical music, gypsy, tango and beyond.
On February 4, he will join forces with longtime collaborator, compatriot cellist François Salque, whose main area of endeavor lies firmly in the classical sphere but, with Peirani, he has ventured through a wide swathe of non-classical material.
For his part, Peirani refuses to stick to the disciplinary straight and narrow, saying that he prefers to keep an open mind on affixing his musical allegiances to any particular post.
“I would say my main musical love is music,” he states simply. “I don’t care about the kind of music, it’s just something I can feel or not. So, mainly, I would say jazz, but this is not enough. I’m in classical, world music, jazz, pop, electronic, contemporary music…” Although he is a devotee of the accordion, Peirani says that had he been given the choice as a child, he would have opted for a very different vehicle of artistic expression.
“I started with the accordion because of my father,” he admits. “At this time, I would have loved to play drums, but my dad chose another instrument.”
Paternal dictate notwithstanding, the accordionist bears no grudge.
“He [Peirani Sr.] did very well! After that, I learned clarinet, and then, during my studies, I started electric bass, a bit of keyboards and singing,“ he recounts.
Peirani feels that his multi-instrumental roving has left a beneficial imprint on the way he goes about his professional business today.
“All of this experimentation on these instruments helped me think differently on each. For example, sometimes I try to play bass on the accordion, I mean, I think like a bass player but on the accordion,” he says.
Quite a few guitarists over the years have owned up to the fact that their adolescent instrumental preference was down to its sex appeal. It is hard to think of a less alluring instrument for a growing lad to play than the accordion. Peirani says he did his best to keep his early stomach Steinway training to himself.
“Yes, of course it bothered me that the accordion was uncool. I was ashamed to say that I was playing the accordion, so my solution was to tell everybody that I was playing drums!! And then nobody said bad things about playing drums,” he says.
Peirani’s initial choice may have been forced on him, but he quickly came to grips with the necessary technique and made his mark in the junior international arena. Between the ages of 14 and 18, he won (Dean Benicci) highlights events movies television radio dining numerous international awards and competitions for classical accordion in Germany, Italy and Switzerland, most notably, landing first place in a competition at the prestigious Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique in Paris in 1996. Peirani’s successes opened the door to appearances at festivals all over Europe and cemented the youngster’s reputation as “one to watch.”
In addition to stacking up classical music kudos, the youngster also discovered the work of iconic jazz pianist Bill Evans and French fusion band Sixun, and his main avenue of exploratory interest began shifting from classical music into more improvisatory areas. He enrolled in the jazz department of Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique in Paris, seasoning his jazzy exploits with his solid backdrop in classical music. Gradually he developed his own style on the accordion and began performing with some of France’s most celebrated jazz artists, such as reedmen Louis Sclavis and Michel Portal, guitarist Sylvain Luc and drummer Daniel Humair.
All the while, Peirani’s own voyages of discovery continued unabated and he dipped into expansive territory, also taking in chanson, classical and world music and even heavy rock. More than anything, however, Peirani says he feeds off life around him.
“I cannot say this kind [of music] is important for me or this one more.
I have no borderlines regarding the style, the cultures– I’m wide open! What influences me also is people.
They can be musicians, of course, but also people I meet who have a story, something strong in them. I like the human being,” he says.
In addition to scintillating button pressing and key playing, the Eilat audiences can also expect to hear some captivating vocals from Peirani.
“I have always sung because, for me, this is the basis,” says the accordionist, who notes that it is very much a matter of getting back to basics. “Everything comes from the voice, the singing. I just try to transcribe what I sing, and maybe more.”
The latter also takes in sudden flights of fancy, as Peirani, along with his cohorts du jour, may, on the spur of the moment, decide to stray from the score.
“Of course, it depends on the band.
It could be total improvisation, half, less, more… And also, it depends on the mood of the day. I mean, we can take risks during concerts by playing something that was not planned, and it could work really well. For example, with François [Salque], we try to mix written music with improvise music. I think we find a good balance for us in this mix,” he says.
Peirani has clearly arrived at a point in his professional and personal development that enables him to cut loose and jump in at the deep end.
“I’m just very curious about music in general, and I really don’t care about the style or whether the accordion could fit in this music or not. This is just my ‘job’ to do that,” he says. “I just want to play the music I like, I love. My instrument is the accordion – who cares? Let’s just play the music with people!”
The Eilat Chamber Musical Festival takes place on February 3 to 6 at the Dan Eilat Hotel. For tickets and more information: www.eilatfest.com; eventim.co.il/Eilat; and *9066.