R.I.P. Accordion Craftsman Stefano Mengascini
I was saddened to learn today that Stefano Mengascini, co-owner of Mengascini Nello Accordions, passed away on December 29th. He was only 62. I met Sig. Mengascini last Spring. I had been looking into buying a good Italian accordion, googling every accordion maker and shop in Castelfidardo, the hilltop town near Ancona that has been the center of hand-crafted accordion production for over a century. I booked an airbnb nearby and made the four hour drive from Florence. Stefano had answered my email with a cordial invitation to visit his workshop, and the small, nondescript Mengascini factory on the outskirts of town, where Stefano came out to greet me warmly, was my first stop.
It was also my last. The following day, having wandered the town, playing and pricing instruments from a half dozen makers and shops, I returned with my wife. Stefano patiently presented (again) models with various amounts of tremolo (I prefer Italian) and various reeds. In the end, I ordered the Clarion, at a 40% discount for ordering at the factory, with handmade reeds, which have a depth–an unmistakable warmth and resonance well worth some additional expense.
With thousands of moving parts crammed into a very small space, accordions take at least six months to build. I've tried to be patient, but I emailed Stefano this morning to get a sense of when mine will be ready. His daughter Lucia replied with the news that he had passed. She also let me know my accordion will be ready in another week or two, but the excitement I would have felt was overshadowed by the sober solemnity we feel when suddenly reminded of mortality.
I was fortunate to have met Stefano. In my condolences to his daughter, I wrote truthfully that his memory will be part of the beautiful instrument that they are making for me. I will have not only a great accordion, but a connection to a proud living tradition, with memories of the warmth shown to me in the beautiful city of Castelfidardo.
A work table in the Mengascini Nello accordion factory