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Vassili Artiemovitch KOLTCHIN | 1918-1998

Vassili Artiemovitch Koelchin and Vladimir Vladimirevitch Besfamilnov Moscou – 1973.

Vladimir Vladimirevitch Besfamilnov’s speech

The 80th birthday of Vassilij Artiemovitch Kolchin (February 1998)

« I took the opportunity of being in concert tour in Siberia from Kouloundi (Altaï region) with the famous violinist and teacher Firtengelts and the opera singer E. Viltchuk (soloist from the Mosconcert) to call Vassilij Kolchin in order to discover more about his private life, his relatives, the place he was born and his first steps as a creative genius. I was running tests on his instrument in the extreme climatic conditions of Siberia. I was happy to let him know that bayan had succeeded all the tests. The audience, my colleagues and I were really happy about the resonance and the strength of the instrument. Kolchin was both really surprised and happy to know that I was performing in his native place in the middle of the steppes of Kouloundi! Vassilij Artiemovitch Kolchin was born in the small village of Osernoe in the Altaï region, on the 18th of February 1918. His parents and family were all craftsmen (the origin of his last name means: the one that best fixes the spear). His father as well as his older brothers (Pavel and Savelii) knew how to do the work of   blacksmith, metal worker, carpenter as well as the making of accordions) From his childhood, Vassilij learnt how to play “garmonika” (or “garmochka”, a small diatonic accordion) and at the age of 15 he started to fix them, to make reeds and to conceive his own accordions. Vassilij Artemovitch Kolchin told me one day that this creative inspiration started at a young age. It was not only a gift nor a real obsession: “I was looking for movement constantly, I could not hide ideas that came to my mind and obsessed me, I was creating. This kind of intellectual work is a useful hobby but is also above all a huge exercise for the imagination”. From 1934, Vassilij Artemovitch lived in Moscow. He was working as a locksmith, a carpenter and he was making bayans. This allowed him to gain an extraordinary experience to become then the famous craftsman of unique bayans. During all his life, through difficulties and a lot of happiness, Anna Andreevna Sizova encouraged her husband Vassilij Artemovitch Kolchin. She was the sister of A. A. Sizov, well known bayan builder, former student of Kolchin. She was a remarkable woman: a loyal friend and work assistant, with a lot of kindness, happy in any situation to welcome or to help the numerous musicians and colleagues of her husband. Most of the bellows in Kolchin instruments were made by Anna Andreevna. Their strength is such that even after 30 years you do not have to replace them. She died recently but the ones that have known and loved her will keep an imperishable souvenir. To define the personality of Kolchin, we can generally state that he is the leader of modern thinking in bayan building. His model still surprises a lot of musicians and instrument builders in the world. Vassilij Artemovitch has kept good souvenirs from the instrument factory directors: M.M. Tchasovskoi and V.V. Zinoviev had created especially for him and some other music craftsmen ideal conditions to materialize their ideas, to develop their professional skills and to realize different models of bayans. Musicians such as I. J. Panitski, A. Poletaev, A. Sourkov, or the Schneider brothers played on the first generation models. Sourkoy was so in love with his bayan that he kept it until his death. During 20 years of active use, he went so see Kolchin only once in order to stick again a leather skin on a reed.

His bayan is still played by my former student V Proudkoun. This instrument has a unique keyboard mechanism, perfect lines, it only weights 12 kilos and its acoustic is exceptional. Vassilij Artemovitch Kolchin, well known bayan builder, erudite person, creator always in search of new inventions, innovator, nicknamed Master or the « Stradivari of bayan », spent all his life to perfect the qualities of bayan. Sourkov introduced me to Kolchin at one of my soloist concert in Moscow. It was « love at first sight ». Kolchin liked the way I was playing and I loved the depth and resonance of his bayans. Some musicians try to increase the resonance and they damage the tone. They forget that bayan is not like a brass band, this is a polyphonic instrument that can be handled with a great subtlety and a particular command. The « Rossia » model is the start of our friendship and collaboration in the 1960s. V Galkin and I became the happy owners of these two first bayans. Then, the « Rossia » was used as a basis for the creation of the « Jupiter » model by J.K Volkovitchem. Unfortunately, « Jupiter » did not evolve for the last 30 years. After the « Rossia » model, Kolchin created in 1971 the famous « Appassionata » while he was working in an experimental workshop under the direction of Zinoniev. The author of this article is the happy owner of this last model. The objective of the experimental workshop was not to produce the most important number of bayans. For each new model, the creators perfected the configuration of bayan, taking into account the musicians suggestions. With the bayan « Appassionata », I was playing in a lot of cities from the former Soviet Union and abroad. Below are some quotes of critics made by the producers and musicians about the bayan « Appassionata » and its creator V.A Kolchin.

« During the concerts of V Besfamilnov, we admired the union between the performance of the musician and the wonderful instrument… For us, this is an exceptional instrument, one of the best bayan we know. The instrument has a good resonant balance, pure acoustics without air loss. All the ideal conditions are present for the artistic development of the soloist. » Vainer (the director of the producing workshop and Lorenz (the director of the experimental workshop). Klingenthal, the 15h of May 1975.

Of course some of the adjectives used to describe bayan such as « unique », « wonderful » or « fantastic » are flattering both for the musician and the producer. However, there were also some fails. Because of bad quality of raw materials arriving in the factory, a lot of musicians playing on « Jupiter » or « Appassionata » broke the valves on the right keyboard or mechanism from the register systems. Even if some apprentices were having wages superior to Kolchin, they did not accomplish faithfully the tasks he was giving them. He was saying with bitterness and an ironic feeling: « When there is a producer there is only one fault on the bayan, when there are 10, there are ten faults ».

It was far from the creation of my new instrument but even the bayan I was playing for my 50th birthday was fantastic: the left hand had 3 voices, 68 tones, 132 buttons and 10 registers in chin pieces with an additional piccolo, what gives a total of 14 possibilities. Thus I can play with the left hand in a similar register as the right keyboard and this being really easy for the musicians. In an official report, the secretary of the International Confederation of Accordion players, the professor V.L Poukhnovski wrote: « V. Besfamilnov presented an instrument at the international seminar of accordion players in front of specialists from Denmark, Finland, RFA, Switzerland, France, Norway, Slovakia, and Bulgaria. The opinion of spectators and professionals is unanimous: the resonance of the instrument, its acoustic capacities, the colour of its tone, change dramatically the conception of the soundboards, the quality of materials, the bass mechanism and the construction of the registers. These features testimony of the performance of the master, who is beyond comparisons even with famous brands such as Hohner, Giuletti, Scandalli, Dalappé. We are happy that this wonderful instrument belongs to the well known musician V Besfamilnov.

Références :

Bassourmanof A.P. « Encyclopédie du bayaniste » sous la rédaction de N. Chaikin1986

Mirek, Alfred.  Reference Book: Scientific and Historical Explanation to the Scheme of the History and Classification of The Harmonicas (Accordeons)  [in Russian/English] (Moscow: Alfred Mirek, 1992).