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What to Know for This Weekend's Concerts, Jan. 12-14

Here are some events related to this weekend’s Passport to Hungary concerts in Chapel Hill (Jan. 12) and Raleigh (Jan. 13 & 14) that you should know about. Be sure to scroll down for an interview with soloist Petra Berényi. She’ll reveal the secrets of this performance’s featured instrument, the cimbalom!

Wednesday, Jan. 11
Associate Conductor Sarah Hicks previews the concert at Quail Ridge Books, 3522 Wade Avenue in Raleigh, at 7:30pm. She will discuss how the influences of Hungarian folk music can be heard in the works of so many of that country’s finest composers, including Liszt, Kodaly and Bartok. Sponsored by WCPE-Quail Ridge Local Arts Series.

Thursday, Jan. 12
Pre-concert talk at 7pm in Gerrard Hall, given by Dr. Letitia Glozer

Friday, Jan. 13
Pre-concert talk at 7pm in the West Pavilion, given by Dr. Jonathan Kramer
Ask a Musician at intermission
Post-concert Q&A on stage, with Sarah Hicks, Dovid Friedlander and Petra Berenyi

Saturday, Jan. 14

Meet the Artists at 6:30pm in the West Pavilion, hosted by Catherine Brand with guests Sarah Hicks, Dovid Friedlander and Petra Berenyi
Ask a Musician at intermission

The Cimbalon, Exposed!

The 200- pound instrument that is now known as the cimbalom was developed by József V. Schunda in the late 19th century. This weekend, Petra Berényi will show us how it’s done in Kamilló Lendvay’s Concerto Semplice for Cimbalon and Orchestra. Here’s what Petra told us about her instrument.

What are the challenges of the cimbalon?

Mostly tuning and transporting! Tuning is difficult at the middle and upper section; since the strings are divided by one or two bridges, that means upper strings involve three different pitches. While you tune the middle one, the two sides should be in tune but most of the time they are not. Then you get your copper screwdriver-like tool and a hammer to adjust the little brass pieces on the side. How fun! Takes forever...

When did you learn to play the cimbalom?

I started learning cimbalom at age of six. In Budapest there are several music school where they teach this wonderful instrument. It wasn't really my choice but my ear training teacher thought since I am left -handed I wouldn’t be able to play a stringed instrument. (Ha! she was wrong. I became a violist as well.) I agreed to learn the cimbalom because every music school has at least two of them and I thought I wouldn’t have to carry it to the school and home. But nobody warned me that if I grew up to be a professional I will have to carry it everywhere. Oops.

What do you love about the cimbalom?

I love that basically ANYTHING can be played on it! Sometimes with one or two other cimbalom players, you can play almost the whole repertoire from baroque to modern, including Bach's organ pieces, Goldberg Variations, French and English Suites, the Partitas as well as the solo violin and cello works, since the range is almost five octaves! I have also done Couperin, Rameau, Domenico Scarlatti, W. A. Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Janacek, Paganini and many others. We cimbalom players usually make our own transcriptions.

There are many original works written for the ancient type of cimbalom by composers like Carlo Monza, Paulo Saulini, Niccolo Jommelli and Melchior Chiesa. Leopold Mozart also knew about the cimbalom, mostly as a folk instrument, but wrote a part for it in one of his works called Die Bauernhochzeit symphony.

We use many different kind of mallets which open a wide horizon of changing colors which is something other instruments, like piano, cannot do easily. It really gives composers the possibility for a new composition technique if they let their imagination fly. We all try keep searching for new sound possibilities on the cimbalom through the use of new techniques.

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