Tag Archives: Barrel Organ

Virtuoso balalaika

I haven’t posted any music here for ages, so I thought I’d remedy that.

Many musical instruments are associated with a particular style of music. Sometimes it’s an uncomplimentary style and an unfair association. For example, in Britain most people unfamiliar with baroque music think a recorder is a children’s instrument, normally played badly and out of tune.

Sometimes the association is so strong that virtually all the music you hear on an instrument is in that one style.

But it seems to me that pretty well any musical instrument  which actually works reliably can become a virtuoso instrument. Sooner or later, someone will come along who’s enthusiastic enough about the instrument not to be satisfied with just playing in the one obvious style with the few obvious techniques. They’ll try to push it as far as they can manage to go.

I’ll freely admit that I’d never heard of Alexei Arkhipovsky until I came across him by chance on YouTube a few months ago. Think for a moment what kind of music you expect to hear coming out of a balalaika. I suspect the word strumming may well be in your mind. Well, have a listen to Balalaika Amok:

A piece in a more Eastern style, appropriately enough titled Eastern:

His version of Mission: Impossible (this is in a rather similar style to Balalaika Amok):

And last but not least, The Barrel Organ, which is effectively a long cadenza containing favourite bits of Paganini and so on. This uses a whole collection of techniques including harmonics and what on a violin would be called left hand pizzicato. It lasts about twelve minutes, but is well worth listening to in full: