This week we will be traveling to Russia to enjoy their ethnic music and also some classical piano music written by Sergei Rachmaninoff. The first clip will be music played by a traditional guitar-like instrument called the Balalaika. This is a triangular shaped instrument made of wood with a hollow body and three strings. Two strings are tuned to the same note and the third is tuned a perfect fourth nigher. The Balalaika comes in various sizes and are used mostly as accompaniment to folk dances.
The second video shows an amazing display of rhythmic skill using spoons! Notice the Balalaikas being played by the musicians behind the “spoon man.”
Sergei Rachmaninoff was a Russian pianist, composer and conductor, who lived from 1873-1943. He left Russia soon after the revolution there and never returned. This sense of displacement and longing to return to his home country never left him and he suffered from depression most of his life. His piano pieces are infused with Russian elements, one being that of bells from the church which he used to hear when a young boy growing up in Russia. The piece you are going to listen to this week is a very famous piano composition, called simply Prelude in C# minor but which came be known as The Bells of Moscow, because of the big chords you hear at the beginning and end of the piece which are imitating the sound of bells.
Here is one other prelude of Rachmaninoff that is one of my favorites. There are so many beautiful pieces by this composer you may want to do some exploring and listening. All of the Preludes Op. 23 and 32 are wonderful as are the Etudes-Tableaux and of course the Piano Concertos 1,2,3. Happy Listening!