The bayan is one of the
most advanced chromatic accordions. The sound of the bayan is produced
by freely vibrating metallic reeds, just like that of the accordion
from which it comes. Although this principle was actually handed
down to us from ancient China (2700 BC.) its present form is an
evolution of the work of Viennese organ maker Cyril Damian, who
created the accordion as we know it, in 1829.
The accordion spread quickly throughout Europe
and notably to Russia where it very soon became extremely popular.
People from every social class were attracted to it. In Russia,
the instrument developed independently of the rest of Europe. The
chromatic version that the most talented accordion makers created
there became known as the bayan in honour of a well-known Russian
bard of antiquity.
By the end of the XIX th century, the bayan was
already well-established in Russia, as a serious concert instrument.
Musicians actually considered that its swell system acted much like
a bow, enabling them to take full advantage of the instrument's
polyphonic and harmonic chants. Its construction also allows the
musician to play with both hands without needing to transpose or
arrange the music. The bayan has been a part of the curriculum of
the country's conservatories for over 100 years.
Although this instrument is still very young compared
to the violin, the guitar or the piano, the demand for it has done
nothing but grow. Ever since the October revolution, innumerable
pan Soviet and local bayan competitions have been held, and today's
Russia there are many full bayan orchestras capable of interpreting
practically the entire classical repertoire.
In the last couple of decades, the bayan's reputation
has spread beyond Russia's borders. It figures prominently nowadays
at international accordion competitions all over Europe.