Russian Instrumental Music: Specific Instruments

Figure 1.--This Russian cabinet card is unidentified. It is one of the new style of cabinet cards that became popular after the turn-of the 20th century. It was 4.5 x 5.5 inches. We suspect it was taken about 1910. The teenage youth id playing a balalaika while his little briother wartches.

We notice Russian children playing both European and traditional Russian musical instruments. European instruments seem to have appeared in Russia primarily during the reign of Tsar Peter the Great (18th century). One of the most popular musical instruments is the violin. This is in part a economomic matter. Many families could afford a violin, but a piano is a very different matter. Only well-to-do families could afford a piano. And unless the instrument is in the home, practicing the instrument is very difficult. Brass and wind instruments like the clarinet seem less popular in Russia than America. There are also trafitional instruments which were common in the 19th century. The gusli is one of the oldest known Russian musical instruments. The Greek historians describe the instrument. Both Theofilact and Theophan mention the gusli. Apparently Greeks soldiers arriors took Slavonic prisoners and among thgem found a gusli (6th century). The balalaika is probably the best known traditional Russian instrument. It is a stringed instrument with a destinctive triangular body. It is a family of instruments, rather like the violin which comes in many different sizes and tonal characteristics. The instrument is noted (17th century, but may have earlier origins. We believe that the focus of instrumental music during the 20th century was on European instruments and away from traditional instruments.


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Created: 8:45 PM 5/22/2011
Last updated: 8:45 PM 5/22/2011