“After graduating from high school, I had been without music for about two years, due to military service as a lieutenant of the army. At the end, I was not sure about my future (we are not to forget that it was not possible to study accordion at the musical conservatory), so I began to attend university and parallel teaching accordion in school with my teacher Renzo Tomassetti, who had an incredible number of students. I was playing an accordion ‘Bugari Armando’, a man I had great respect and affection for, and sometimes he gave me the opportunity to play as a guest for some event. Also, I gained respect from Bio Boccosi. About this, I have a nice memory: I was in Rome in 1986, at the military school for the AUC (officer cadets) training, and everyone knows the rigidity of such training…. In particular way, for five months nobody gets permission to go home for any reason. Well, Bio Boccosi sent a fantastic letter that convinced the General Ottogalli, commander of the military school, to give me a week (!) of permit to participate in a festival in Cagliari as a member of jury and guest of honor! I never thanked enough Bio Boccosi… In any case, at the end of 1988, I had the opportunity to contact the Bontempi company, who had just bought the Farfisa (1984) and Paolo Soprani (1986). The engineer Paolo Bontempi, among other interesting initiatives too long to tell now, started a production of accordions, in collaboration with two craftsmen of Castelfidardo, Leonardo and Luciano Menghini. Some years later I knew that they were looking for a musician for “endorsement”. They tested many musicians before contacting me. Anyway, after a few months of ‘trial’, they offered me a special contract: I was hired as an employee, with regular salary, but with the permit to continue my studies in the way I found appropriate. I was really very quickly involved in the projects of the group, including the department of electronic keyboards and toys. Became musically responsible for the whole group, we are speaking about a company with about a thousand employees at that time and several subsidiaries spread-out the world. I was involved in many different activities and was traveling continuously throughout the world. Obviously, my training as musician could not be affected. For example, Farfisa had a science research center in a beautiful park in Paliano (FR), and I often went there. We were studying new microprocessors for the generation of electronic sounds, which were then used in the laboratories of Farfisa to design musical instruments, such as keyboards and synthesizers. The insights and experiences of those years gave me an important knowledge about the sound, all things that were not possible to study and learn in conservatories … for example, the theory of harmonic sounds as it’s still explained to the students is very superficial, it would be useful to study in a total different way.”
“Bontempi-Farfisa group was very oriented in the production of mass distribution, especially in the field of musical toys. The management at all levels could not match the specific accordion needs, with its impossible industrialization, because is an instrument made with methods of artisan production, with its own market and distribution, completely different. After a few years of trying, the management decided to stop the accordion department, and I, also thanks to my good personal relationship with Bontempi, bought the business unit, together with Leonardo and Luciano Menghini. We finished all the acquisition process in several years, it had not been easy, but the result today, and for many years, is that I’m musician and entrepreneur at the same time. This is absolutely NOT compatible to 100%, and in fact I do not think I do a really good job either.”
Is there a something much more important, a particular element more than others during the construction, that adds value to the instrument? In a few words, what makes a real difference on an accordion concert … The voices, the sounding board, the tuning …?
“This is another important and long argument. What is certain is that the accordion is an instrument of quality craftsmanship, so quality comes from the quality of the artisans. But what complicates the situation is that, compared to other instruments, the accordion has an incredible variety of parts, completely different. I never knew any craftsman capable of doing a complete accordion alone. The main problem is that to make a great instrument, all the single parts must be excellent. A keyboard that does not work well also affect the sound, we can have excellent voices but not well assembled (or set), so we are going to have an approximate sound, worse than economic but assembled in a good way. Personally, to those who ask me what are the best instruments, I always recommend: try to test as much as possible, and then choose according to your taste.”
Scandalli accordions are completely made inside the company. Is that right?
“Our company has a specific production department for wooden parts, we make the celuloid covering job, mechanical parts and keyboards; we buy voices or just some parts of them and other details, but sometimes we produce them (for example the valves of the keyboard or mechanical) … in general, apart the bellows that always buy from specialized suppliers, we have a structure that, if in over production, may buy more processing externally; but usually we always try to do as much as possible inside.”
Which markets are the best for your company?
“We sell all over the world, like our main competitors. What sometimes people forget is that there are not “big” companies of accordions as those of the years ‘50s-‘60s-‘70s. We are all small companies and therefore it is impossible for each one to operate in all the markets around the world. So it happens that we are more or less present in some countries and other competitors – in others, where we are not.”
“It’s a good question. I do my best in both fields; to be honest I can say that I feel much more musician. Music is always present in my mind, not numbers and market strategies.”
What is your role in the Confederation International des Accordeonistes (CIA)?
“In 2014, at the congress in Salzburg, I was elected Chairman of the Committee of Music and I’m part of the Executive Committee. It is an elective office: the CIA is a confederation made up of members from around the world (now about forty), associations, conservatories, schools etc., founded in 1935. There are many discussions about these organizations, but if a Confederation born in 1935 still exists today, without interruptions, and is also part of the Music Council of UNESCO, we have to recognize its great value. The CIA has had ups and downs over the years in its activities, I had been involved several years ago and now I am asked for a direct commitment in several projects.”
We just spoke about the Trophée Mondial. Is there some particular memory you have kept jealously for yourself, an experience that gave you gratification?
“I really had a lot of satisfaction, I can not choose among them in particular. But I can tell you about one “negative” situation that made a deep impression on me, for which I realized I was unprepared: the first time I played with an orchestra, for example … I realized all along that to grow up we need “difficult” experiences.”
This question is for Mirco Patarini the musician: is there still skepticism about the accordion among musicians? What do you think is the future of our dear “accordion”?
“It depends a lot on the country… In Europe, in general, I do not see, as when I was a young student, a closure of cultural environments top music. In fact, it seems to me that the accordion attracts more and more interest. This obviously comes from the widening of the repertoire, from courses of conservatory of music that produces students of high quality, not like in the past when very few accordionists were truly capable of giving a concert. Think about the “classical accordionist”, when was opposed at the time, a little laughed, a little accused to be not a professional music. But I would say that classical musicians, at that time, also had their good reasons. When happen to see music or listening to old recordings of transcriptions of music by Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Bach today is often to smile … we were evolving and, apart from some rare accordionists, the most part of them played with hands and heart, but those experiments often were not allowed by the classical musicians… or maybe, who knows, they sometimes had reason … think about Bach, He never wrote for piano, so there is not reason why the accordionist will follow piano revisions instead of starting over …”
This question, instead, is for Mirco Patarini the ‘businessman’… Do you think the accordion can be technically improved or we reached the top?
“Yes, I’m sure we can improve the accordion much more. In my opinion, the sound can still be improved both in power and in balance. It is a big problem, because inside a concert instrument there are more than one thousand reeds and adjust each one (it’s a manual work!) to be reactive in a homogeneous way, both in the low sound and all the dynamic levels, is very difficult. Today there are not better ways to produce, for example, voices without a large part of the work done by hand. There are, however, technologies to produce voices without manual intervention. But the main problem is that these technologies require investments too big for our companies, also because our business market has not large dimension. We have the same problem with the materials used for the metal components … how many times accordionists dreamers asked me, for example, about the titanium … then, when I explained to them the reasons that preclude the use, I seemed to see a similar reaction to when a child discovers that Santa Claus does not exists. This does not mean that these technologies will always be out of the accordion production. I believe that slowly we would integrate more and more the results of other research fields, such as 3D printing, which will bring great benefits. In any case, for me, there are two aspects to work on: the sound, intended not so much as a tone, but as a balance between the various reeds and dynamic possibilities, and the weight reduction.”
“I have not a crystall ball to predict the future. The world moves with dynamics difficult to predict, and the interests involved that determine them, or at least the directing, are unfortunately completely independent from activities such as music, art in general, education … I have visited factories in Russia, in China, in Brazil; I can say that the way they produce accordions will be very difficult to imitate the excellence of Castelfidardo. It is clear, however, that events or processes of great international importance may unpredictably change the planes. We’ll see.”
We are at the end of our interview. Tell me why a young boy or girl should choose to play accordion? (I would love to hear the answer of the musician Mirco Patarini and not the ‘businessman’)
“I would love for young boys and girls to choose to study music in general, doesn’t matter which instrument. I think every family should consider the possibilities of giving their children an important cultural background, over the sports, the study of foreign languages etc. We always have to remember that the progress in the world stems in well educated minds, stimulated in their cultural item. Music, in my opinion, more than other kind of art, is capable of touching the soul of everyone. To play music, at every level, is a great satisfaction for our souls and is also a good way, for kids and adults, to discover the best of ourselves.”
This article is available also in: Italian