James Crabb

Classical Accordion

Management: Australasia

Website: http://www.jamescrabb.com

'Piazolla', Australian Chamber Orchestra national tour 2022

“Crabb’s unrivalled virtuosity shone throughout, with some astonishing, lightning-fast finger dexterity . . . He had superb control of expression, going from the impossibly soft to muscular, barking chords so typical of the tango style.”

Clinton White, Canberra City News, February 2022 

“In quiet passages, James Crabb presses and expands his beloved accordion like a second set of lungs – or even a first set – squeezing out a sigh or a cadence as though it were his dying breath. In more active music he flicks offbeat accents and sudden outbursts with cool precision, both deadpan and deadly, creating incendiary momentum as though this is the last tango civilisation will hear and you might as well enjoy it. Yet this is not ego-driven performance. A hallmark of his playing is the way he listens and adjusts, matching a quiet note against a cadenza from ACO leader Richard Tognetti, or balancing an inner chord with violist Stefanie Farrands to draw out a darkening thought.” 

Peter McCallum, Sydney Morning Herald, February 2022 

Latin Fiesta!, West Australian Symphony Orchestra

“Crabb was an enthusiastic director in this work, engaging with all the musicians around him from his seat on the central podium… Crabb manoeuvred brilliantly between the plucky, rhythmic dance-figures and the more lyrical, singing melodies of his line. Particularly well-realised was the cadenza in the first movement; sensitively voiced and tantalisingly phrased.”
Laura Biemmi, Limelight, May 2021

Hamlet, Glyndebourne Festival Opera

“…Accordionist James Crabb might have an operatic career ahead of him. Dean’s decision to use this non-operatic instrument in the play-within-the-play scene is a masterstroke. It is such an unexpected sonority, and Crabb’s virtuosic playing underpins the broad comedy.”
Michael Halliwell, ABR, 20 June 2017


The Singing, BIS Recordings with Royal Scottish National Orchestra

“…Accordionist James Crabb is spectacular in the concerto, The Singing.  From long mournful singing lines, bagpipe imitations and breathing bellows and winds, the accordion and orchestra create lush soundscapes”.

Tiina Kiik, Wholenote

“…a brilliant performance from James Crabb
Bruce Reader, Classical Reviewer, 31 October 2015


“…The Singing – executed with effortless fluency and contagious flair by its dedicatee James Crabb
Paul Riley, BBC Music Magazine December 2015


“The great strength of this Victorian Opera production, directed by Leigh Warren, is the impressive Tango Nuevo Ensemble, with James Crabb’s remarkable classical accordion that expresses the passionate heart of Piazzolla’s tango.”

Kate Herbert, Herald Sun


“…an accordionist of dazzling virtuosity..., an embryonic genius emerged in James Crabb and a fine ambassador for his chosen instrument...”

Michael White, The Independent on Sunday, UK


“…Crabb was a magnificent soloist with outstanding tonal variety, rhythmical conviction and a superb sense of colour and projection”

 Peter McCallum, The Sydney Morning Herald


“… Crabb presented himself as a consummate master of his instrument…”

Paul Driver, The Sunday Times, UK


Scottish-born James Crabb is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading ambassadors of the classical accordion. He studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Music with classical accordion pioneer Mogens Ellegaard and was awarded the Carl Nielsen Music Prize, Denmark in 1991. He was professor of classical accordion at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen from 1995 to 2010, held a long-standing guest professorship at the University of Music and Dramatic Arts in Graz, Austria and was most recently, Artistic Director of Four Winds Festival, NSW.

He has performed worldwide as soloist with the BBC Symphony, BBC Scottish, Sydney and Melbourne Symphonies, Philharmonia, London Philharmonic, London Symphony, Hallé Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic, London Sinfonietta, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Nash Ensemble, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Swedish Chamber Orchestra, Spatanburg Philharmonic (South Carolina) and El Paso Symphony Orchestra (Texas).

This year James performs at Sydney Festival, gives recitals at Ukaria, and at the Organs of the Ballarat Goldfields festival, as well as returning to the Australian Chamber Orchestra and the Australian Festival of Chamber Music, Townsville. He will also make his debuts with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra (Creswell’s Dragspil concerto for classical accordion) and at the Bavarian State Opera, Munich in Brett Dean’s Hamlet

A recognised and acclaimed authority on the music of Astor Piazzolla, James has performed with the original members of Piazzolla’s own quintet. He has directed Piazzolla’s Maria de Buenos Aires both at the Royal Danish Opera and for Victorian Opera. James’ Piazzolla recordings include Song of the Angel with the Australian Chamber Orchestra and The Quintets with Richard Tognetti and the Tango Jam quintet. He is also featured in the documentary Astor Piazzolla in Portrait published by Opus Arte. Further recordings include transcriptions of Stravinsky’s Petrouchka and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, The Singing (Beamish) with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

Highlights of recent seasons include a national tour with the Australian Chamber Orchestra and Richard Tognetti, performances with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, the Israel Chamber Orchestra, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, a weekend of recitals at the Ukaria Cultural Centre, performances with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and at festivals including the Australian and Tasmanian Chamber Music Festivals, Oxford May Music, UK, Huntington Estate with the Goldner Quartet, and a residency at the Australian National Academy of Music. He has also appeared at the Adam Chamber Music Festival, New Zealand; performed and recorded the new Brett Dean Accordion concerto The Players, with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra, performed with Dance Company Co.3 in Perth in a new work, “In Line”, given a recital at Music in the Round, Abbotsford Convent, Victoria, appeared with violinist Anthony Marwood at Ukaria, play/directed Sinfonia Cymru, Wales and appeared in Brett Dean’s Hamlet in a new production of the opera at Opera Cologne. James has also performed  Piazzolla’s Aconcagua with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the Ulster Orchestra; conducted and performed in Victorian Opera’s production of Maria de Buenos Aires; played Stravinsky’s Petrouchka with the Tero Saarinen Dance Company in Europe and Asia; given the world premiere of a new work by Magnar Am in Oslo and in Japan; played Gubaidulina’s 7 Words with the BBC Symphony and at the BBC Proms; toured Victoria with the Australian Chamber Orchestra; and performed with the Camerata Salzburg, Australia Ensemble, Sydney Omega Ensemble, Southern Cross Soloists, Black Arm Band, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, and at the Peasmarsh Festival, England and the Australian Festival of Chamber Music. With the Swedish Chamber Orchestra James and Brett Dean performed a new Accordion/Viola duo work, and in collaboration with Opera Queensland and Dance North he was music director of “Abandon”, based on the music of Handel.

Maintaining a high international profile, James has appeared as guest soloist and director of a new Piazzolla festival in Buenos Aires, performed the Birtwistle work The Last Supper with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and created a major role on stage, written especially for him, in Brett Dean’s new opera Hamlet at Glyndebourne Festival Opera, a role which he later reprised at the 2018 Adelaide Festival. He also curated the 2017 ‘UKARIA 24’ weekend of performances.

James also continues his two exciting collaborations, one with violinist Anthony Marwood and the other with recorder player Genevieve Lacey. Crabb-Lacey’s first recording together, Heard This and Thought of You, has been released on the ABC Classics label.

James Crabb is managed by Graham Pushee: graham@artsmanagement.com.au 
 February 2023
This biography is for general information purposes only and not for publication.
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