//Ad libs: Sing me a cimbalom

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sing me a cimbalom

It wasn't your everyday orchestra moment at the Palo Alto Philharmonic on Saturday: In the middle of a concert, somebody brings out a cimbalom.

But, hey. If you're playing the folk-rich "Hary Janos" by Kodaly, you've got to have a concert hammered dulcimer from Central/Eastern Europe. The cimbalom is a particular star in the "Intermezzo" movement of the opera. "Intermezzo" leaps like a peasant dancing girl (landing, of course, on the first syllable like the Hungarian language does), and the cimbalom adds a rippling depth. At times I could picture a girl's tiny feet tripping across the strings, as though she had jumped up to dance on the instrument itself.

The concert was definitely an international experience, Hungarian-themed with works by Bartok and Dohnanyi, and
people chatting in Hungarian. (For an even more international flavor, watch this YouTube video of a Japanese orchestra playing the "Intermezzo.")

Cimbalom player Roman Titcu kindly let us climb up on stage after the concer
t to look at the gleaming instrument. I'm now in favor of having someone walk in with a cimbalom on many occasions. Long city council meetings, maybe. Or while you're stuck in line at the bank. Imagine.

Pictured: Top: Cimbalom player Roman Titcu with his instrument on stage at the Cubberley Community Center Theatre, last Saturday after performing. Above: A close-up look at the cimbalom. Photos by Rebecca Wallace.