Tangents on a mandolin

I was driving to work a few days ago and realized that I really liked the piece of music playing on the radio. It was Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Mandolins in G.

mandolinTwo mandolins? Who would write concertos for mandolins? Concertos are serious music. A mandolin seems like such a, well, frivolous instrument.

While I’ve heard bluegrass mandolins, I’d never before thought of one as a classical instrument.

And then, who would actually study mandolin as a classical instrument? Can you get a music degree in mandolin? (Apparently yes, though it seems most such musicians work with a number of fretted stringed instruments, primarily guitar, and often combine composition and performance as part of their degree.)

Mandolin by lilac lemur

Mandolin by lilac lemur

I’m not a stranger to the mandolin. My father played one. Not proficiently, but well enough that he would pull it out from time to time and pick and strum some old Estonian folk tunes. Occasionally I’d accompany him on the piano. We’d play and he’d try to remember the words to those old songs. The rest of the time, the mandolin would hang on a nail in the wall – supported by a red ribbon tied in a bow around its neck. (I wonder where that ribbon came from – what it meant.) Now that mandolin is buried somewhere in a box in the basement, the pick still stored inside, ready to rattle around.

It seems that I’ve been oblivious to a whole area of music and musicians: the mandolin players of this world. I’m just glad I found them in time to enjoy them.

Here’s the bit of music that got me going: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oa8L2C9WK40

Here’s Tuljak, an old Estonian favourite that I use to play with my father, but played in a style I never imagined: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2l7cLeYpxDw&feature=player_embedded

And I’ll leave you with mandolinist Ben Bosco playing all nine parts of Handel’s Arrival of the Queen of Sheba. http://www.benbosco.com/arrival-of-the-queen-of-sheba-on-mandolin/

Enjoy…!

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