For three generations, stretching back to the early twentieth century, the Matusewitch family has stood at the forefront of both the concertina and accordion worlds. Gregory (1886-1939), the family patriarch, concertized extensively in Russia and Europe before moving the family to the United States in 1923, where he had a relatively brief but active career under the auspices of the young impresario Sol Hurok. The wide spectrum of his performances included appearances in major concert halls (including New York’s Carnegie Hall and Town Hall), on early American radio broadcasts and recordings for the Victor Talking Machine Company, and even, for a time, on the vaudeville circuit.
Boris (1918-1978), the younger of Gregory’s two sons, succeeded him as the USA’s leading concertinist and teacher of the instrument. Over the course of a rich and varied career, he performed at west coast nightclubs, gave annual concerts at Carnegie Recital Hall, appeared on leading television shows, was a featured soloist with orchestras, and teamed up with dancer Rod Strong in an innovative combination of music and dance. As for his students: they are legion. Gregory’s other son, Sergei (1917-1998), was primarily an accordionist, though he also played the concertina and taught the instrument together with Boris at their New York music studio from the 1950s through the 1970s. Finally, Boris’s son, Eric (b. 1951), represents a third generation of the family; and though content to call himself an amateur, he often performed publicly with his father at venues that included Carnegie Recital Hall.
In addition to popularizing the English concertina in the United States, the Matusewitch family’s legacy includes two concertina tutors, several recordings, a handful of original compositions for concertina and accordion, a veritable slew of journal articles about the family, and scrapbooks full of glowing reviews and other notices. These materials constitute a significant collection of (largely English-language) material both by and about the family and form the core of the bibliography that follows.
The bibliography deals with the careers of Gregory, Boris, and Sergei. The entries, which range chronologically from 1922 to the present day, are organized in nine parts, some alphabetically by author/title (the latter for those that are unsigned), others chronologically by ‘event’: I. books and monographs; II. articles in journals, newspapers, and newsletters; III. select concert notices and reviews; IV. a list of compositions written for concertina and accordion by Gregory and Sergei Matusewitch, respectively; V. Boris on Broadway; VI. a reference to Boris’s television appearance; VII. recordings; VIII. concertina tutors; and IX. miscellaneous items. Finally, some entries for journals and newspapers lack references to volume and/or page numbers, this because I have gleaned them from scrapbook clippings that were clipped with just a little too much abandon.
Atlas, Allan W. The Wheatstone English Concertina in Victorian England (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996).
Atlas dedicated his book to Boris and Sergei, with whom he studied concertina and accordion, respectively; he notes that the great concertina virtuoso of the first half of the 20th century, Gregory Matusewitch, ‘played mainly violin music, as did his sons Boris and Sergei’ (p. 72, n. 75).
Carlin, Richard. English Concertina (New York: Oak Publications, 1977).
Carlin points out that Gregory was a Russian concertina ‘master’ who toured England and the USA; contains photos of Boris with dance partner Rod Strong, c. 1952 (p. 6) and Gregory and a pupil, from the 1920s (p. 53).
Flynn, Ronald, Edwin Davidson, and Edward Chavez. The Golden Age of the Accordion (Schertz, TX: Flynn Associates, 1984).
Includes an interview with John Reuther, the founding editor of Accordion World, who notes that Sergei studied accordion with Pietro Deiro and taught at Wurlitzer’s in New York during the 1930s (pp. 142-143); there is a photo of Sergei (p. 158).
Rose, Alexander. Memoirs of a Heterosexual (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1967).
The author, who studied with Boris, writes that he ‘[h]eard a concertina player in a night club and rushed to Matusewitch, the famous concertina artist, [the] next day for lessons’ (p. 284).
Taubman, Howard. The Pleasure of Their Company: A Reminiscence (Portland, OR: Amadeus Press, 1994).
The former New York Times music and drama critic served in the army (entertainment unit) with Boris during World War II; he fondly recalls Boris as a friend and musician, writing that ‘Boris played the concertina brilliantly, and his repertoire was enormous’ (pp. 133-34).
Wagner, Christoph. Das Akkordeon oder die Erfindung der populären Musik (Mainz: Schott, 2001).
Includes a discussion of Gregory’s career, along with a publicity photo taken in Danzig during the 1920s (pp. 152-54).
II. Journals, Newspapers, and Newsletters
Accordion World 8 (September 1942); 9 (November 1943).
The covers of these two issues contain photos of Sergei, ‘concert artist, composer and teacher’.
Atlas, Allan W. ‘The “Respectable” Concertina’, Music & Letters 80 (1999), 241-53.
Refers to a recording that includes a 1927/28 selection by Gregory (p. 250; see §VII).
_____. Review of Music for the English Concertina, ed. Willem Wakker, Free-Reed Journal 1 (1999), 81-86.
Includes brief references to Gregory and Boris, and mentions that the latter performed Bernhard Molique’s Concertina Concerto in G, Op. 46 (p. 81).
Berquist, Hilding. ‘The Accordion and Concertina in Russia’, Accordion World 18 (October 1953), 7.
Notes that Gregory ‘studied at the Royal Academy of Music in Riga, graduating in 1915’.
_____. ‘Concertinas’, Accordion World 14 (September 1949), 12-13, 32-33; also online at the Classical Free Reed website: www.ksanti.net/free-reed/essays/bergquistconcertinas.html.
Writes that ‘[a]ccordionists would do well to attend the recitals and other appearances of our own Boris Matusewitch’.
_____. ‘Concertina Concertos’, Accordion World 15 (January 1950), 17, 37.
Berquist states that he introduced Boris to the Molique Concertina Concerto No. 1 in G, Op. 46 (p. 17).
_____. ‘Concertina Literature, Part 2’, Accordion World 15 (October 1950),12-16; also online at the Classical Free-Reed website: www.ksanti.net/free-reed/essays/bergquistconcertinas.html.
Berquist notes that he gave Boris copies of concertina concertos by Franz Bosen and Bernhard Molique.
C. Wheatstone & Co. The Concertina World, 1851-1951 (1951).
A seven-page history of—and publicity brochure for—the Wheatstone concertina company; lists Boris as one of the ‘stars’ of the concertina world and includes his photo.
Carlin, Richard. ‘The English Concertina: Hard Times’, Mugwumps 6 (April 1980), 12-19.
Devotes several paragraphs to the careers of Gregory and Boris.
‘Concertina Artist Supreme’, Accordion World 5 (November 1940), 16.
A short profile (with photo) of Boris.
Cooney, Michael. ‘Teach In: How to Find, Train, and Maintain a Concertina’, Sing Out! 20 (March/April 1971), 5-6.
Notes that Boris advertised a five-week concertina course in the Village Voice (a New York weekly) for which he used Wheatstone concertinas (p. 5).
Gabriel, Thomas. ‘The Russian Virtuosi in America: An Interview with Sergei Matusewitch’, Concertina & Squeezebox 21 (Autumn 1989), 4-10.
Sergei reminisces about the Matusewitch family.
Horowitz, Joshua. ‘The Klezmer Accordion: Old New Worlds (1899-2001)’, Musical Performance 3 (2001), 135-62.
Includes a discussion of Gregory as ‘one of the finest of the early Yiddish music accordionists [sic]’ (pp. 137-40, 145) and two European photos of Gregory.
International Concertina Association. Newsletter 155 (June 1968).
Mentions that Neil Wayne, then resident at the University of Wisconsin, ‘has been fortunate enough to spend an afternoon with Sergei Matusewitch, one of the famous concertina playing brothers’.
Jacobs, Kathleen. ‘Old World to New’, Manhattan Plaza News (April 1997), 1, 10-11.
Sergei, who lived in New York’s Manhattan Plaza (limited to performing artists and their families), discusses his musical family; includes photos of Sergei and Gregory.
Matusewitch, Boris. ‘The Growth of the Concertina in the USA’, Accordion and Guitar World 23 (December 1958), 30.
Discusses the growing popularity of the English concertina in the USA.
Matusewitch, Eric. ‘Boris Matusewitch’, Mugwumps 7 (June 1983), 14-15.
Review (with photo) of Boris’s career.
_____. ‘Gregory Matusewitch’, Mugwumps 7 (August/September 1983), 10-11.
Review (with photo) of Gregory’s career.
_____. ‘The Matusewitch Family: Concertina and Accordion Virtuosi—Russia, Europe and the United States’, (1997), also online at the Classical Free Reed website: www.ksanti.net/free-reed/ essays/matusewitch.html.
A history of the family, with photos of Gregory, Boris, Sergei, and Eric.
_____. ‘Pilat and Panzeri, Love Me Tonight, arranged for English Concertina by Boris Matusewitch’, Free-Reed Journal 4 (2002), 162-65.
A brief review of Boris’s career, focusing on his concertina arrangements; includes his arrangement of a popular song by Pilat and Panzeri.
Merris, Randall C. ‘Instruction Manuals for the English, Anglo, and Duet Concertina’, Free-Reed Journal 4 (2002), 85-118; also online at www.concertina.com/merris/bibliography, where it is periodically updated.
Lists two instruction manuals for the English concertina by Boris and Sergei (pp. 94-95).
Palmer, Bill. ‘Should Accordionists Play Bach?’ Accordion World 14 (April 1949), 9; also online at Classical Free-Reed website: www.ksanti.net/free-reed/essays/palmerbach.html.
Mentions that Sergei performed J.S. Bach’s Toccata in D Minor (originally for organ) at his concerts.
‘Piano-Accordion’s Distant Relative: The Concertina’, Accordion World 1 (April 1936), 18.
Profile (with photo) of Gregory Matusewitch.
Tarte, Bob. ‘Forces of Nature’, Beat 21 (2002); online at www.technobeat.com/columns/forces.htm/.
Includes a review of the Global Accordion—Early Recordings (Weltmusik Wergo; see §VII), and writes of Gregory’s virtuosity as being ‘extraordinary in his performance of “Yidisher Melodien” on piccolo accordion [sic!]’.
Taubman, Howard. ‘No Amateurs, These GI Joes’, New York Times (June 18, 1944), section 2, p. 5.
Howard Taubman, music critic for the Times—and then a private in the army—writes about musicians in the Special Service Training Group at Camp Sibert, Alabama, including Pvt. Boris Matusewitch, ‘virtuoso of the concertina’.
Wakker, Willem. ‘De Matusewitch Familie’ (Pts. 1-3) Klank (January, July, October, 1999); online at www.concertinaconnection.com.
A history of the Matusewitch family (in Dutch).
Wallace, Ed. ‘Twist Its Arm and It Squeals—but Nice’, New York World Telegram and Sun (December 1, 1952), 3.
Profile (with photo) of Boris.
III. Select Concert Notices and Reviews in English
Adams, Franklin P. ‘The Conning Tower’, The World (March 4, 1922), 11.
The famed literary figure wrote a favorable review of Gregory’s February 25, 1922, Town Hall (New York) recital.
‘Again Scores Success Here with his Concertina: Gregory Matusewitch is Heard at Alliance’, Savannah [Georgia] Morning News (February 17, 1930).
‘Artist Excels on Concertina’, Houston Post-Dispatch (January 27, 1928).
Short review of Gregory’s January 26, 1928, concert at the Houston Jewish Institute.
Bennett, Grena. “Concertina Recital,” New York American (December 27, 1926).
Brief review of Gregory’s December 26, 1926, Town Hall recital; Bennett wrote that ‘the unusual and delightful instrument was manipulated by Gregory Matusewitch. Handel’s E-major sonata, as it sounded, might have been performed by an orchestra of eight musicians so fully and colorfully harmonized were its four movements’.
‘Concert Will be Given: Jewish Musician to Appear in High School Auditorium Tuesday’, South Bend [Indiana] Tribune (January 24, 1927), 7.
Notes that Gregory (here called ‘George’) has appeared in many cities and that newspaper critics have been ‘highly laudatory’ in their reviews; he is described as having ‘complete mastery of the instrument’ and his performances as drawing large audiences.
Downes, Olin. ‘Gives Concertina Recital’, New York Times (December 27, 1926), 20.
Review of December 26, 1926, Town Hall recital; Downes found that ‘[t]he great range of tone color he produced and his complete mastery gave variety and interest to the four movements [of the Handel sonata in E major]’.
‘Famed Artist on Concertina is Coming Here: Gregory Matusewitch to Appear on Thursday Night’, Erie [Pennsylvania] Dispatch-Herald (February 15, 1927).
‘Gave Splendid Program for Concertina Concert’, Norwich, Connecticut, Bulletin (February 19, 1931).
Favorable review of Gregory’s February 18, 1931, recital sponsored by the Workmen’s Circle.
‘Matusevitz and His Concertina’, Savannah [Georgia] Morning News (January 18, 1928).
A review of Gregory’s January 17, 1928, recital at the Jewish Educational Alliance; the critic exclaimed that ‘[p]laying with a virtuosity that was not short of wonderful, the artist produced music from his small instrument that the writer of these lines could never believe it contained’.
‘Matusewitch Gives Brilliant English Concertina Recital’, New York Herald Tribune (December 27, 1926), 8.
‘At Town Hall yesterday afternoon [December 26, 1926] there was a concert comprising both those rare and invigorating qualities of novelty and complete virtuosity. Gregory Matusewitch showed an astonished and delighted audience that the English concertina, played as he can play it, has a right to be designated a major solo instrument’.
‘Matusewitch Recital’, Accordion World 1 (December 1936), 6.
Reviews Gregory’s recital of November 21, 1936, at Wurlitzer Auditorium (New York), at which he was assisted by his sons, Boris and Solomon (Sergei).
‘Not So Lonely Concertina’, The World (December 27, 1926), 12.
Brief review of Gregory’s December 26, 1926, recital at New York’s Town Hall. The music critic wrote: ‘Under the miraculous manipulation of Gregory Matusewitch, the lowly concertina becomes idealized so that such music as Handel’s E-major sonata. . .emerges as though from the stop of an organ’.
‘“Out All Night” at the Colony’, New York Telegram (September 26, 1927).
Notice of Gregory’s performance at the Colony Theatre, New York; the author writes that Gregory Matusewitch, ‘virtuoso of the miniature English concertina, causes it to emit a startingly versatile collection of sounds’.
‘Russian Café Offers Treat’, New York American (December 7, 1932).
Mentions that Gregory Matusewitch, ‘virtuoso of the concertina’, will be playing at the Russian Art Restaurant in New York on December 11, 1932 (a benefit for the New York American Christmas and Relief-Fund); includes a photo of Gregory.
(b) Boris and Sergei
‘Brothers Matusewitch’, International Musician (March 1952).
Short review of the Matusewitch brothers’ joint recital at Carnegie Recital Hall, February 16, 1952. The critic wrote that Sergei ‘has revealed himself as a sensitive and finished artist, capable of producing unusual musical effects’.
‘Empire Room Headliners’, Chicago Sunday Tribune (February 8, 1953), Pt. 7, p. 13.
Notice that the ‘novelty duo’ of Gregory and Strong will be playing at the Empire Room of the Palmer House Hotel, Chicago; includes a caricature of the concertina-dance team. (Note that Boris dropped the name Matusewitch and used Gregory only in his nightclub act with Rod Strong.)
‘First Civic Music Presentation Hailed as Success by Audience’, Panama City [Florida] Herald (November 3, 1955).
The music critic noted that ‘[a]rtistry and entertainment of the highest caliber were combined last night by dancer Rod Strong and concertina virtuoso Boris Gregory’.
‘Going Out Guide: Bach on Concertinas’, New York Times (August 19, 1981), section C, p. 15.
Notes that Sergei and Randy Stein (Sergei’s student) will play Bach’s Double Violin Concerto on two concertinas with the Balalaika Symphony Orchestra (Seaside Park, Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, New York).
Herron, Paul. ‘On the Town’, Washington Post and Times Herald (May 24, 1954).
Writes that Boris Gregory and Rod Strong are headliners at the Harlequin Room of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Washington, D.C. ‘Our advice is to stay for the second show, too. The act is unusual and you probably won’t appreciate it as much the first time as the second go-round’.
Johnson, Harriet. ‘Review of New York Philharmonic International Promenade Concert’, New York Post (June 12, 1970), 49.
Boris supplied the music for a ballet choreographed by dancer Edward Villela (Off to Sea Once More); Johnson took note of Boris’s nautical stage costume: ‘Boris Matusewitch, a sea-hippie, was there with his concertina to add sights and sounds to life on deck and in port’.
‘Matusewitch Recital’, Accordion World 4 (June 1939), 20.
Short review of a recital by Boris and Sergei at the Rand School Auditorium in New York: ‘The appreciation with which these two artists were regarded left no doubt that they were indeed masters of their favorite instruments, and doing much to make them popular’.
‘Mozart for Accordion’, New York Times (January 18, 1980), section C, p. 18.
Notice of Sergei’s January 19, 1980, recital in the Bruno Walter Auditorium of the Lincoln Center Library-Museum for the Performing Arts.
‘Play Musical Shorts’, New York World-Telegram (Nov. 14, 1952), 23.
Notes that Boris and his dance partner, Rod Strong, ‘will make a series of musical shorts after they complete their present engagement at the Persian Room of the Plaza Hotel, New York City’.
Sobol, Louis. ‘New York Calvacade: Along Prattle-Tattle Lane’, New York Journal-American (November 15, 1952), 11.
Sobol writes, ‘The team of Boris Gregory and Rod Strong at the Plaza Persian Room—one plays the concertina while the other leaps around and dances like mad’.
‘Soldier Shows’, Army Times (?1944).
Notes that ‘the nation’s outstanding concertina artist’ (Boris Matusewitch) will play Cole Porter’s Begin the Beguine and Fritz Kreisler’s Caprice Viennois.
‘Television Reviews: Sight and Sound’, Variety (September 23, 1953).
Short notice that Boris Gregory, ‘the sensational concertina virtuoso, and dancer Rod Strong have been booked for a return engagement on NBC-TV’s ‘Your Show of Shows’ next month’.
‘Two Matusewitches in Musical Program’, New York Times (January 25, 1948).
Review of joint recital in Times Hall, New York, January 24, 1948. ‘The concertina. . .being primarily a melodic instrument, of haunting quality, capable of delicate inflection, nuance and even vibrato. . .His rendition of Mr. [Robert] Lissauer’s works had charm and melody, and the composer added his applause to that of the audience’.
‘Up Front: Lively Music’, New York Post (May 18, 1979).
Notice of Sergei’s May 20, 1979, recital at the Priory concert hall; the program included transcriptions of works by Bach, Mozart, Rachmaninoff, Paganini, Liszt, and Chopin.
Walker, Danton. ‘Broadway: Neon Nites’, Sunday Daily News (November 16, 1952), section 2, p.11.
‘The new nite club combo of Rod Strong and Boris Gregory fits in wonderfully with the background of the Persian Room. But how about letting Boris, who’s touted as the world’s leading concertina virtuoso, have at least one solo, instead of being merely background for handsome and nimble Rod’s dancing?’
IV. Music Written for Concertina and Accordion
Oriental, Op. 3, No. 1, for concertina. Arr. J.G. Samos (New York: I. Press and G. Matusewitch, 1928).
Artiste Fantasie (A Classic Composition in Modern Concert Style for the Piano Accordion) (Brooklyn, NY: Warner Publications, 1937).
Capriccioso (Classic Accordion Solo) (Brooklyn, NY: Warner Publications, 1947).
Etude in D Minor (A New Concert Bellow Shake Etude in Modern Concert Style for the Piano Accordion) (Brooklyn, NY: Warner Publications, 1942).
V. Boris on Broadway
Fanny (November 1954–December 1956), directed by Joshua Logan, music by Harold Rome, Majestic and Belasco Theatres.
Boris played concertina in the orchestra; his wife (and former student), Norma, substituted for him while he was touring with dancer Rod Strong.
How to Be a Jewish Mother (December 1967–January 1968), based on the book by Dan Greenberg, music by Michael Leonard, Hudson Theatre.
Boris played concertina in the orchestra.
They Knew What They Wanted (October 2-21,1939), play written by Sidney Howard, Empire Theatre.
Music performed by Boris (concertina) and Rosito Anthony (singer/guitarist); listed on the Internet Broadway Database: http://www.ibdb.com/production.asp?ID=13192.
The Wall (October 1960–March 1961), based on the novel by John Hersey, directed by Morton Da Costa, featuring songs by Robert De Cormier and Millard Lampell, Billy Rose Theatre.
Boris played the concertina offstage for actor George C. Scott.
Wisteria Trees (March-September 1950), based on The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov, directed by Joshua Logan, musical arrangements by Lehman Engel, Martin Beck Theatre.
Boris played concertina in the orchestra.
VI. A Television Appearance by Boris
Your Show of Shows, NBC-TV (September 13, 1952).
Boris Gregory and dancer Rod Strong performed on the popular show starring Sid Caesar.
VII. Recordings: Gregory, Boris, and Sergei
The English Concertina. Compiled and annotated by Richard Carlin. Folkways Records FW 8845 (1976).
Includes selections by Gregory Matusewitch (V. Monti’s Czardas) and The Boris Matusewitch Quartet (Scott Joplin’s Chrysanthemum).
Global Accordion: Early Recordings. Compiled by Christoph Wagner. Wergo SM 1623 2 (2001).
Gregory plays Yiddisher Melodien.
Gregori Matusewitch. Circulated privately either as a tape or CD, this contains previously recorded selections: Zigeunerweisen (Odeon A 10212-A, Germany), Serenade (Victor 73616), Czardas and London Polka (Victor 9035), Yiddisher Melodien and Yiddisher Wulach (Odeon A 10212-A).
Fanny. A musical play by S.N. Behrman and Joshua Logan; music and Lyrics by Harold Rome. RCA Victor LOC-1015 (1954).
Boris plays concertina in the orchestra of this original cast album.
Around the Samovar. Leonid Bolotine and Orchestra. Warner Bros. Records W1255 (1959).
Boris played concertina in the orchestra in this recording of Russian folk music.
Accordion-Concertina Recital. S-M Records, S M 002 (no date).
Includes selections by Frosini, Sarasate, Brahms, J.S. Bach, Massenet, Tchaikovsky, Gluck, and Monti.
VIII. Concertina Instruction Manuals
Matusewitch, Boris Gregory and Sergei. Matusewitch Associates 5 Week Course for the English Concertina (New York: Matusewitch Associates, c. 1965).
_______. Method for the English Concertina (New York: Matusewitch Associates, 1952).
A copy at the Library of Congress.
Matusewitch, Gregory. Publicity Brochure (1920s).
Includes excerpts from his European and American concert reviews and a photograph; listed on the International Concertina Association website, Reuben Shaw Archive, Item #RS002: www.concertina.org/docarc.htm.
Matusewitch Associates, “Five Week Course: Concertina’, Village Voice (November 23, 1972), 46.
The brothers’ standard newspaper advertisement for their concertina course; it ran regularly in the Village Voice and New York Times from the 1950s to 1970s.