Ildikó Vékony - With mallets and strings - CD
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cd cover Ildikó Vékony
With mallets and strings (Budapest Music Center)

Performances on solo cimbalom of J.S. Bach's 'Partita No. 3 in E major' and 'Sonata No. 1 in G minor.'

The artist says: 'Why this music? ...you may ask. Some pieces I have been playing for ages; others I have always wanted to play. Some are not really my world, (but sometimes we long for another world); some are pieces I have been waiting for, and yet I needed years to uncover their deeper meaning. And some have jolted me out of my habits, highlighting for me the moment when a sound is born.'

   

Ildikó Vékony - cimbalom
J.S. Bach: Partita No. 3 in E major, BWV 1006
01. Preludio Real Audio 4:04
02. Loure Real Audio 3:39
03. Gavotte en rondeau Real Audio 3:29
04. Menuet 1 & 2 Real Audio 4:17
05. Bourrée Real Audio 1:37
06. Gigue Real Audio 2:17
07. Zoltán Jeney: Farewell To Ligeti Real Audio 8:55
08. C. Ph. E. Bach: Freie Fantasie in F sharp minor, W 67 Real Audio 12:02
09. Ádám Kondor: Hand ball paper Real Audio 4:57
J. S. Bach: Sonata No. 1 in G minor, BWV 1001
10. Adagio Real Audio 3:07
11. Fuga – Allegro Real Audio 5:49
12. Siciliana Real Audio 2:34
13. Presto Real Audio 4:19

What is this instrument, anyway?
A box with strings stretched over it. These strings are struck by small hammers, held in the human hand. An ancient invention, it exists in every corner of the world. The one heard here is the most modern version, created in the twentieth century, with strings of steel and copper, a frame of cast iron, a refined pedal mechanism, and a broad compass; the limits are set by the performer alone.

And yet, it is so simple and open that anyone can get a good sound from it immediately. Take the beaters and drop them onto the strings, or stroke the strings with your hand, or a ball, or perhaps a sheet of paper. I like to listen to this when children come across the instrument for first time. I marvel over its simplicity, and I take issue with those who say it is cold.

CimbalomsThe beaters are small mallets. Generally the player makes them himself, and every pair produces a different sound. There are many variations in both the grip and the head. And no two players hold them, or use their fingers, wrists and arms, in exactly the same manner. With this instrument, there are no schools: here every performer is a separate school. And it’s no use trying to anchor things down: chance cannot be eliminated, and our fallibility becomes a part of the performance.

Any music can be played on it – music can be played on it. Old, older, yesterday’s, today’s – these categories don’t exist. Time was when there was no fetish for instruments, and musicians would play on whatever lay at hand. Now there’s a cimbalom as well. Composers write for it too, and as they filter it through their own systems, finding other sounds, other faces and roles for it, so comes into being the wonderfully rich world of cimbalom music.

Why this music? ...you may ask. Some pieces I have been playing for ages; others I have always wanted to play. Some are not really my world, (but sometimes we long for another world); some are pieces I have been waiting for, and yet I needed years to uncover their deeper meaning. And some have jolted me out of my habits, highlighting for me the moment when a sound is born.

CimbalmokI learnt the works of Johann Sebastian Bach from the facsimile edition published by Insel Verlag, a gift from my revered teacher, József Sári. I like this small book (it fits into my pocket); the writing speaks to me, and its radiant power disperses all my doubts about why we have music and notation. Everything can be played on a cimbalom. There is no need for complicated transcriptions such as in the sheet music published today for violinists.

I also play the Fantasia by Emmanuel Bach from a facsimile score, which I received many years ago from László Vikárius, a musicologist acquaintance of mine. (I’m not sure if a printed edition exists.) It was created for a keyboard instrument, for ten fingers; on a cimbalom we have only two beaters. But a multitude of strings lies before us, which we strike with the hammers in our hands, without any intermediary keys, and as a cimbalom player this freedom of performance is an opportunity to understand the “rigorous freedom” of the work. I have changed the text of the score only slightly, where it was absolutely necessary: I adapted the distribution of the chords to the nature of the cimbalom, and omitted one or two inner notes, where continuity was more important.

When the plan for this disc was being drawn up, the rehearsals for Zoltán Jeney’s piece Funeral Rite were in progress. It’s good that there’s a place in it for the cimbalom. I immediately knew that this disc, too, had to have some Jeney music. And in this cimbalom piece, traces of the sound of the larger work can be heard. Through the piece another link comes into being: with Ligeti, who never wrote for the cimbalom.

There’s one composer who can write for this instrument as if he played it himself. I asked Ádám Kondor to write a piece for this disc. I was in for a surprise: he dreamt up a piece in which no notes are played traditionally with beaters. And he really did play the piece through to me.

Like all instruments, the cimbalom too has its typical noises: the thud of the base of the string, if the beater touches it;the padded sound of the pedal damping the string, or the clatter as it releases it... They cannot be avoided completely, and we have to accept them.

But to return to the first question: what is this instrument? For me it is an opportunity to capture impossible beauty.

Other recordings you might like:

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Gypsy Cimbalom Band
Live in Germany

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Toni Iordache
Sounds from a Bygone Age

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