Saturday, January 26, 2013

Unusual concertos [43]: Theremin

Before the purge of end 2008, one of the most popular topics of this blog was "Unusual concertos", classical concertos for all kinds of instruments and orchestra. I have decided to revive this, aiming for less familiar composers in general. In its original incarnation, I came to 40 different concertante instruments - aiming for 50+ this time.

The forty-third concerto deals with the theremin (image source), an instrument invented in 1928. The controlling section usually consists of two metal antennas which sense the position of the player's hands and control oscillators for frequency with one hand, and amplitude (volume) with the other, so it can be played without being touched. The electric signals from the theremin are amplified and sent to a loudspeaker. Like its cousin the ondes mardenot, it has been used far more frequently in soundtracks than in serious classical music. I have no theremin concerto on CD in my collection - but I have high hopes that BIS will record the fairly recent theremin concerto by contemporary Finnish grandmaster Kalevi Aho one of these years. I did manage to find one concerto for the beast on YouTube. It is from 1942 by Anis Fuleihan, and it is played by Clara Rockmore and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra Conductor under Stokowski, available on a YouTube link.

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