A Strange Effectist?

November 05, 2020
 

It was a first. And I’m guessing it might be for you as well.

After all these years of getting to know classical music performers, mostly from their recordings, I’ve seen references to so many musical instruments. Generally, it’s one instrument to a player. I’m impressed when I learn that a particular performer excels on more than one instrument.

I know I’ve mentioned Duilio Galfetti, the Italian mandolinist and violinist. We’ve enjoyed his recordings over the years on both instruments. The mandolin was his first instrument, which he began to play at age seven. He also plays the guitar. And the website of one of the many ensembles with which he performs credits him with viola, banjo, and “strange effects.” I had never seen that on any performer’s bio.

The website belongs to a group known as Quintetto Bislacco. They’re committed to making music with classical instruments, though without boundaries of styles and genres. They also incorporate a good measure of humor. That might provide a clue about “strange effects.” From what I’ve seen online, the humor is not at the expense of impressive lyrical and virtuosic playing. I hope to learn more about them.

If you weren’t aware that English composer Jeremiah Clarke’s Prince of Denmark March has been used at weddings, maybe it’s just a matter of time before you hear it at a wedding. I learned recently that it once served another purpose.

While the Nazis occupied Denmark during the Second World War, the BBC in London, in a show of support for the Danes, sent Danish language broadcasts to Denmark. They prefaced those broadcasts with the opening notes of the famous march. And in commemorations of the Danish liberation of 1945, the march often is played. It was written in 1700 by Jeremiah Clarke for Prince George of Denmark, who was married to Queen Anne of Great Britain.

I was reminded that for years, the Danish Broadcasting Corporation (DR) used the opening notes of the tune from the oldest known Scandinavian secular song in between some of its domestic programs. Though well-known in Denmark, the tune, which scholars believe was written around 1300, never became famous internationally like the Clarke tune.

Vladimir is a famous surname in classical music, thanks to at least a few musicians of the 20th & 21st centuries. Who comes to mind? Horowitz or Ashkenazy, right? Perhaps pianists Vladimir Feltsman and Vladimir Viardo or conductor Vladimir Fedosseiev. Just for fun, I did a quick check for composers named Vladimir. Those listed are not well-known. I was a bit surprised. I had gone searching for Vladimirs in anticipation of playing a piano piece that imitates a music box. It’s known as The Musical Snuffbox by the Russian pianist/composer Vladimir Rebikov (1866-1920).

Horns can imitate bugles. How about other instruments? I remember the Gary Larson cartoon in which a cavalry is led by an accordion player on horseback. The caption was a stern order to the musician to get his bugle fixed. That came to mind last week when I played one of the many battle pieces in the history of music – one by Tielman Susato (1500-1561).

The performance featured the Flanders Recorder Quartet. Recorders are rather soft-spoken instruments. On CDs, recorder levels are boosted, sometimes to the point that they probably could go to battle. It can be entertaining. But just be aware that in a live concert, a recorder is a very different instrument. I learned that years ago when Michala Petri came to town. The sound of the instrument in concert is warmer and minus the shrillness that you sometimes hear in reproductions.

The battle piece brought a fun thought to mind. There are so many of those dances known as “galops” in the history of music, including some written for the piano. I wondered if there might be a piano bench out there in the shape of a saddle. I used to just laugh off wild thoughts like that. But having been surprised too many times, I now check to see that there isn’t something that pops up online. No, I didn’t find one. But I wanted to share the thought.

And on the occasion of the 335th anniversary of the birth of Domenico Scarlatti on October 26, I wanted to share a couple of the 555 sonatas he wrote. I mentioned just days before that we’ll never run out of Scarlatti sonatas to enjoy. So many performers have recorded some, either on the harpsichord, for which most of them were written, or on the piano. We’ve also heard them played on the guitar, on two guitars, harp, banjo, and mandolin. There even have been orchestrations of bits and pieces of those sonatas into concertos. If you’re not familiar with sonatas by Scarlatti, you’re in for a treat.

One way to be sure to hear them is to tune in to Classic Mornings. Join us Monday through Friday from 9-noon on FM 90.9 or online at will.illinois.edu.


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