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An accordion revolution

Suzanne Cords / als
December 19, 2012

Love brought the Frenchwoman to Germany, and she brought her instrument along with her. The chanson singer and accordion player celebrates her 20th album.

Lydie Auvray and her accordion Copyright: Volker Neumann
Image: Volker Neumann

The first few notes of her new CD "3 Couleurs" prove that the lively musician has lost none of her fire. Even in a group of 100 accordion players, one could still distinguish Lydie Auvray's sound: nonchalant yet highly emotional, impulsive playing that seems to expand the instrument's limits.

When Auvray moved to Berlin in 1974, few were familiar with the musette accordion style. At most, people knew it from French detective "Maigret" films. Together with her boyfriend, Auvray played small night clubs: if she was lucky, 20 minutes for 10 German marks (about five euros or $6.60). But she was happy nonetheless. "It was my Bohemian period," she raves.

The "Lydie" signature

Lydie Auvray taught Germans that the accordion isn't just for sailor songs and schmalzy folk music. Be it waltz, tango or chanson, the Frenchwoman's accordion crosses the world's genres, proving just how diverse the instrument can sound in the right hands. All of her pieces bear the "Lydie" signature, composed by Lydie herself or in close cooperation with her band members. In performance, she often adds her own warm, deep voice.

Lydie Auvray playing accordion Copyright: Volker Neumann
Auvray is passionate about her accordion playingImage: Volker Neumann

She's remained true to this method on her latest CD, "3 Couleurs" (Three Colors). The title is not a reference to the three colors of the French flag, but to the three different manners in which she performs: with her veteran "Auvrettes" band she formed 30 years ago, with her trio, and since 2012, as a solo artist.

Tango, Balkan and chanson

Auvray's new CD boasts 13 pieces with a diverse range. The tango takes a lead role - temperamentally played in "Tangomère" and with a melancholy bent in "Julia," which also gives a tip of the hat to the whimsical mood of the film classic "Amélie." Added to the mix: digressions into jazz, Balkan excursions and waltz journeys.

"3 couleurs" CD
Her 20th albumImage: Westpark

In one instrumental piece, the accordion imitates the sound of the ocean, underscored by drums and percussion in their own unique tone. In "Dis-Moi Grand-Mère" (Tell me, Grandmother), an old woman tells her granddaughter about her childhood, and in the chanson "Nostalgie," the listener impulsively walks along the Seine with Lydie Auvray on a rainy afternoon.

At home in Cologne

The passionate musician is also interested in topical themes, composing, for instance, the dirge "Complainte" in the wake of the nuclear catastrophe in Fukashima.

Auvray and the Auvrettes outside Copyright: Volker Neumann
Auvray and her "Auvrettes"Image: Volker Neumann

A bonus track fulfills one of Auvray's greatest wishes: recording a song with her daughter Canelle on CD. The high, clear voice of the 18-year-old is a strong contrast to her mother's dark timbre, lending intriguing nuances to their rendition of "Dis-Moi Grand-Mère."

"3 Couleurs" was produced in Cologne, where Auvray has lived since 1988. She loves the open-mindedness of the city's people, she says, and one can also clearly see the French influence there. Her own influence is apparent; hardly anyone else has revolutionized accordion playing in Germany in the way Auvray has.

Lydie Auvray is currently on tour in Germany with her new album.