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A Chemnitzer concertina is a musical instrument of the hand-held bellows-driven free-reed category, sometimes called squeezeboxes. The Chemnitzer concertina is most closely related to the bandoneón (German spelling: Bandonion), more distantly to the other concertinas, and accordions.
It is roughly square in cross-section, with the keyboards consisting of cylindrical buttons on each end arranged in curving rows. Like other concertinas, the buttons are at the sides of the instrument, whereas the keys and buttons of an accordion are at the front. A strap, usually of leather, is fitted at each end to hold the player's palm against the instrument for playing. Compare to the English concertina where the thumb holds a strap, the little finger is held on a rest, and the remaining three fingers press the keys. The instrument is bisonoric, meaning that each button corresponds to two notes: one when the bellows is compressed, and another when it is expanded. On most instruments, two or more (and as many as five) reeds sound for each note. The tones produced are either in octaves, unison, or in some combination thereof.
Internal construction is different from other concertinas in that the action more closely resembles that of an accordion, and that the reeds are of steel (rather than brass) and are often fixed in groups of twenty or more to long zinc or aluminum plates, rather than to individual frames. This arrangement resembles that of the Russian accordion, the bayan.
Sources differ whether German inventor Carl Friedrich Uhlig created his first concertina after seeing Charles Wheatstone's instrument of the same name, or whether the two men invented their instruments concurrently and independently. Uhlig's patent dates to 1834, and while Wheatstone patented a related instrument, the symphonium in 1829, he did not patent an instrument under the name "Concertina" until 1844.
Uhlig's first instrument had five buttons on each side, but the keyboard was quickly expanded and as it did so, it diverged into different lineages. Heinrich Band's was sold under the name Bandonion. Several other German instruments were sold under the name concertina (or konzertina), and their keyboard systems were given names based on their creators, as with Band and Scheffler, or their city of origin, as with the Carlsfelder and Chemnitzer systems.
Strictly speaking, the Chemnitzer layout is one of 38, 39, 51 or 52 buttons, or one of the American expanded versions of the 52-button system. Especially in English-speaking countries, the term Chemnitzer is frequently applied to any of the square German concertinas that are not bandonions.
There are also Chemnitzer Concertinas w/ 65 Buttons (130 Notes in Total) created by Albert Nechanicky which are called the "130 Key Concertina". The Treble Keyboard has a 3 Octave Range from A3 to A6 & the Bass Keyboard has a complete Bass & Chord System w/ all 12 Bass Notes & 96 Chords all of which can be played on both the Push & the Pull. They're being revived & are becoming more popular in every genre of music due to their versatility. Unlike other Chemnitzer Concertinas that have anywhere from 1 to 4 sets of reeds, the 130 Key Chemnitzer Concertina has 5 sets of reeds so it's a Quintuple Reed Concertina.
The 152 Key Chemnitzer has 76 Buttons & uses an extended layout from the 130 making it even more versatile & larger in range.
The most notable innovations to the internal construction of the Chemnitzer concertina were made by German-American instrument builders in Chicago: Ernest Glass patented an aluminum action in 1912 (U.S. Patent 1,024,771), which was quicker and quieter than earlier wooden actions; his son Otto further improved this action in 1928 (U.S. Patent 1,737,839). Otto Schlicht patented an action in 1932 (U.S. Patent 1,890,830) which improved the pivot method of the action levers and allowed action levers to be manufactured by bending metal stock rather than by die stamping. In 1910, prior to these improvements, Robert Leppert was issued a patent (U.S. Patent 978,460), the specification of which describes in detail an action containing jointed levers between keys and pallets, however the claims of the patent only relate to a means of expression control also described; it is not clear whether Leppert actually invented the action arrangement.
Albert G. Nechanicky (1909-1986) invented the 130 Key Chemnitzer Concertina which is a fully Chromatic Concertina that can play in every key, eliminating the need to lug around several 104 Key Concertinas pitched in different keys, especially on Church Gigs. Albert Nicky also came up w/ a method book for it called "Nicky's Instructor for the 130 Key Concertina" as a way to get started playing. He clearly explains that quite a few keys had to be changed & repositioned to make it playable. The 130 Key Chemnitzer Concertina is being revived because Albert Nechanicky was quite a Musical Genius who came up w/ such a cool innovation.
Many American and Italian builders of the 20th century began using reed and reed block types similar to those used in accordions as a cost-saving measure and to facilitate repair making them superior, plus they mellow out the Concertina's sound especially on instruments that would otherwise sound too crisp.
The Chemnitzer concertina has been predominantly used in folk music, especially polka music played by Central and Eastern Europeans[who?] and by nineteenth- and twentieth-century immigrants to the United States from those regions. "Whoopee John" Wilfahrt and Walter "Li'l Wally" Jagiello were two prominent examples of polka musicians playing Chemnitzer concertinas. However, the instrument, especially in its 52-button and larger versions, is capable of performing in other musical contexts.
- Dunkel, Maria (1996). Bandonion und Konzertina: Ein Beitrag zur Darstellung des Instrumententyps (2nd ed.). München-Salzburg: Musikverlag Emil Katzbichler. ISBN 3-87397-070-8