Speaking of Music

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As I wasn't, last night I found two of the most remarkable and enjoyable pieces I've heard in quite some time. They're really off the beaten track so you may have to go out of your way to find them, but I assure you, it is worth the effort.

The first is Liu Wen-Jin's Erhu Concerto. The friend who shared it with me did not tell me where it came from, but it might be part of this.

The erhu is a traditional instrument of China--sometimes called the "Chinese fiddle." It has two strings and a sound that is, as with the Koto or the sitar, absolutely distinctive. When you hear this you will say as my wife did, "Chinese restaurant music." Now, she didn't listen to the whole thing, but she also has little tolerance for the tones of the Chinese instrument. And it is displayed to virtuoso perfection in this concerto. You never once leave the bounds of China, and yet the composition is also strangely formal and classically western, with moments that suggest Tchaikovski and Beethoven.

The other piece is a magnificent harpsichord concerto by Henryk Gorecki. The harpsichord is distinctive and yet perfectly blended with the orchestra in this very minimalist, or at least minimalist-influenced piece. It's only about 10 minute long and divided into two very agitated, very rapid movements. I love the harpsichord and I regret its relegation to the closet of antiquities just because of the tonalities of the Piano. It is good to hear it used to such good purpose in this concerto.

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What "closet of antiquities?"

The harpsichord will be around a long time after the vulgar, obnoxious cast-iron framed piano has tinkled its last pleasantries into the wind. The piano is ephimeral. Good "piano music" can be played on the harpsichord just fine. Harpsichord music played on a piano is a boisterous, anti-musical parody, the Municipal Chorus of Dis writ large.

Dear Erik,

I couldn't possibly agree more; however, Sir Thomas Beecham's quip about the amatory exploits of skeletons on tin roofs are exemplary of the modern tasteless attitude toward so noble an instrument.





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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on March 14, 2007 7:41 AM.

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