Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Unusual concertos 91-100: From cimbalom to banhu

The concerto for solo instrument(s) and orchestra is one of the most popular genres in classical music. However, I think 95+ % of all concertos have been composed for piano or violin. Previously I have run a series on concertos for less common instruments in this blog, reaching an amazing number of 100 in the end (all these posts were reset to draft end March). I will be summarizing these in ten posts in the course of the year, each covering ten unusual concertos, keeping the sequences the same as in the past.

[91] Cimbalom. This is a hammered dulcimer that was very popular in Eastern Europe. Its use in classical music is rather extensive, it having been used in scores by composers such as Kodaly, Stravinsky, Liszt, Bartok, Boulez and Dutilleux. For concertos we have to go to less famous names though, and I have found one on YouTube by Alexander Timofeev. It is played by Ion Curteanu and the Porumbescu youth orchestra under the composer.

[92] Pipa. Sometimes called the Chinese lute the pipa is one of the most popular Chinese instruments and has been played for almost two thousand years in China Its use in Western style classical music is rare though. I have a concerto for this instrument by Minoru Miki, played by Yang Jing and the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra under Otomo, available on a Camerata CD.

[93] Aluphone. This is a very recent addition to the family of tuned percussion instruments, its sound having been described as those of a vibraphone, tubular bells and singing bowls coming together in beautiful harmony. There is already a concerto for this instrument, by Anders Koppel. On the YouTube link it is played by Evelyn Glennie and the Odense Symphony Orchestra under Marc Soustrot.

[94] Accordion. We have already dealt with its cousins, the bandoneon and the bayan, but here is the main member of the family. The squeeze box is associated more often with folk music than classical music, but perhaps surprisingly, there have been a number of concertos composed for it. I have selected one from my own collection, by Maltese composer Charles Camilleri. It is played by Franko Bozac and the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra under Vaupotic on a Naxos CD.

[95] Chinese percussion. Various Western types of percussion have already featured in this series, but with more and more Chinese composers turning to concertos, it was a matter of time before a concerto for Chinese percussion and orchestra appeared. I have one in my own collection, by Jia Daqun. It is a Chinese mini CD without further information on performers, unfortunately.

[96] Gamelan ensemble. This traditional Indonesian group has slowly penetrated classical music, thanks mainly to American composers like Lou Harrison. I came across one concerto where it is used as the concertante "instrument" in combination with a classical Western symphony orchestra. It was composed by Matthew Martin, and a performance is available on YouTube.

[97] Suona. This traditional Chinese instrument is a bit like the western oboe. I have in my CD collection one concerto for it, composed by Kwan Nai Chung, and in a performance by Kwok Chin Chye and the Kaohsiung City Chinese Orchestra under the composer. It is available on a rare Hugo CD.

[98] Toy piano. Composers of name such as Cage, Crumb and Kagel, have composed for this unlikely instrument. I came across a concerto for toy piano and orchestra recently. It is by Matthew McConnel, and an excerpt can be seen on YouTube here.

[99] Nei, or Romaninan pan flute. Over the last decades, this instrument has become synonymous with the worst type of muzak, but I do have a concerto for pan flute and orchestra by one of its main masters, Gheorghe Zamfir. It is available on a Philips CD, played by the composer and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte Carlo under Lawrence Foster.

[100] Banhu. This is a Chinese instrument akin to the better known erhu, but with a coconut shell as soundbox. I have one concerto for this unlikely instrument, by Kwan Nai-Chung. It is available on a Hugo CD, played by Ding Lu-Feng and the Kaohsiung City Chinese Orchestra under the composer.

This completes the survey of the 100 unusual concertos that I had posted about in the period until March this year. Meanwhile, the list has grown further, so there will be 1-2 additional posts over the coming months.

Copyright statement: image sourced from here, explicitly stated to be in the public domain.