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Pauline Lerner

April 30, 2005 at 7:04 AM


I had fun tonight playing music for a few hours with a friend. We’ve played together several times before, always with good results. She is very talented. She sings and plays guitar, recorder, and fiddle. She recently bought a book of duets of fiddle music from Eastern Europe, which includes Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, Romanian, gypsy, and other tunes. I love gypsy music. It always sounds like Jewish wedding music to me. The Poles, Ukrainians, and Russians frequently argue over the roots of songs. Everyone wants to claim something pretty as their own. We played two songs called Yablotchka (Little Apple), one Polish and another, completely different one, Russian. I recognized the Russian Yablotchka as the music which served as the basis for the Sailor’s Dance in Gliere’s opera “The Red Poppy.” I actually preferred Gliere’s orchestrated version. The instrumentation is very rich and dramatic. A lot of the duet music in her book suffered from oversimplification, so I improvised some extra notes and ornaments, and she was quite tolerant. We played some violin-recorder duets for the first time. She had her recorder into the shop for repairs recently, and she can now tune it to a 440 A, which she could not do before. She had a book of recorder music which she plays with family members at get-togethers, and we played a few duets from it. Her recorder is an alto, so I played the soprano or tenor parts on my violin. The result was some very lovely, gentle sounding music. Most of the tunes were from the seventeenth century, and I recognized some of them as English country dance music. We also played some Scottish and Shetland fiddle duets. Then she played her guitar while I played fiddle. She played runs while I played long, slow notes and she strummed chords as accompaniment, too. The guitar adds some interesting texture to the fiddle music. When I play these tunes by myself, I add double stops and other ornaments to make the melody line more rich and interesting. With her playing guitar, I kept more closely to the melody and let her fill in with her guitar, and the resulting music sounded new and very good. It’s always fun to play music with her. Sometimes we play music which is new to me, and sometimes we play music which just sounds new because of her musical contributions. It’s so much fun. Everything old is new again.
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