Being a C-system CBA player, I play a French Borel accordina, an instrument comparable to a chromatic button Eolina or cba Vibrandoneon. My accordina has 44 buttons, and is only 1 kilogram. Length of this accordina is 30 cm, about 6 cm high.
(I have heard talks about experiments in France for the near future with a 500 grams accordina (perhaps with 26-32 buttons or so), but we’ll have to wait and see in 2016 or later, if they will be put for sale)
The 2 videos about the symphonium is all I could find on the internet about the symphonium. There are quite a number of photos, but detailed information is very scarce. The concertina museum website is the best place to look for information.
The 2 players demonstrating the symphonium don’t appear to be professional musicians, rather scientists I presume. So we don’t have a good example of what is possible with the symphonium.
I believe a good player could play simple single line melodies quite fast on the symphonium.
One of the playing techniques for the symphonium could be:
– use of 4 fingers in total: the left index and left middle finger, and on the right side the right index and middle finger. This way the player has 4 fingers at disposal to rapidly play fast melodies on this alternating keyboard. (You can compare to some English concertina players, it’s the same layout)
– the other 6 fingers can be used to support and keep in a stable position the symphonium. You use eg 4 remaining fingers to hold the 4 little feet of the symphonium
The players in the videos only do a sound test for a few seconds, they don’t really play the symphonium. A good player could easily play simple and fast tunes, with all the chromatics included (if using 4 or even 6 fingers, including ring fingers)
I know about the Hohner harmonetta from my books and info on the internet. The harmonetta wasn’t really a success. I remember the Germans describing it as a “too big waffle in the mouth” or looking like having a “big calculating machine in your mouth”.
The harmonetta is rather plump and oversized in comparison to the tiny compact symphonium.
I have a few guesses why the symphonium was quickly forgotten.
If you look at the materials and engravings of the old symphoniums, it must have costed a lot of money. A lot of working hours to make the refined action mechanism. Most people simply wouldn’t have been able to afford this.
And C. Wheatstone right from the start thought about a bellows and created the English concertina, allowing the use of arm force and much greater air pressure.
These days, in times of economic crises, Industrial makers will hesitate to produce something like the symphonium. But nowadays we are in a situation for Industrial companies to create cheaper “symphoniums”, and with improved reed quality and resonance qualities.
If there would be one available in a shop, I’d run as fast as I could to get one.