There are several types of concertinas…all being small hexagonal, octagonal, or square instruments, and all being members of the “squeezebox” family, but, all having different keyboard systems. We have the first one built in England by Sir Charles Wheatstone in 1829 (the English system), the English Duet system, the Anglo, and various German systems.
Brian’s instrument is the Chemnitzer German concertina,…a small square “squeezebox” it is very similar and in fact closely related to the Bandoneon (a popular instrument in the Argentinian Tango orchestras.)
On the Chemnitzer concertina system each key on the box (except for one) has two note values….one for “push” and another for “pull.” But for virtually every note on push….there is another note which is the same on pull, although on a different key (button.) In other words you can play virtually any scale on “push” as well as on “pull.” However, “push” will be an entirely different fingering pattern than “pull.” ………So, in order to really master this instrument you have to “know-your-wayaround” the keyboard in both directions……both “pushing” the bellows and “pulling” (drawing) the bellows.
Along with being a “push-pull” instrument,…it also has basically a “scattered” keyboard that is … it … is not arranged chromatically or completed on any formation of scales.
Although the Chemnitzer is a very confusing and illogical system it is however fully chromatic and because of its peculiarities it does possess certain qualities and advantages which are uniquely its own. One advantage that all concertinas have is having the entire keyboard under your hands (the ability to play the highest and lowest notes at the same time).
The sound of the Chemnitzer is darker than the average accordion. Its sound is definitely its own……sort of eerie and mysterious. This strange little squeezebox, with a charm all its own has captured the lives and love of many since the time of its invention in 1834. The Chemnitzer was created in that year by Carl Friedrich Uhlig, musical instrument builder and clarinetist in Chemnitz,Germany. It was first introduced to the United States in 1893 at the Worlds Fair in Chicago. Since that time it has had its roots (in the United States that is) basically in the Bohemian. German, and Polish communities and therefore unfortunately became stereotyped as a musical instrument to be used only for these types of music.
Fewer and fewer of these instruments are being made every year and playing the Chemnitzer concertina is rapidly becoming a lost art.
PO Box 1142
Wisconsin Rapids WI 54495-1142