1993 Recording for Radio Television Hong Kong Radio 4 "Young Music Makers"
Date: 18 September 1993 recording, 30 October 1993 broadcast
Location: Radio Television Hong Kong Radio 4
This programme consists of works that span two centuries, from Bach to Shostakovich. They geographically cover the continents of Europe and America, from the USA to Russia. Apart from the standard string quartet from which the Harmonica Quintet derives its name, we also present large scale orchestral works. We hope that through this programme, the audience can grasp the possibilities and versatility of this tiny instrument - HARMONICA.
Quartet for Flute, Violin, Viola and Cello in A Major, K298 (1787)
I. Theme: Andante and Variations
This piece is strictly delightful and relaxing. The melodies are in the typical style of Mozart although the instrument (the flute) is one that "Mozart can't stand" (in Mozart's own words).
The arrangement of this piece for the Harmonica Quintet is also typical. Five parts are needed to account for the difference in the ranges between the harmonicas and the strings. At the same time, the arrangement helps to balance the relative importance of each part.
Suite No.2 in B Minor, BMV1067
Menuet and Badinerie
This orchestral suite is the only work by Bach originally composed for flute and orchestra that has survived. The selections are the final movements in the 7-movement suite. The Menuet is a typical and elegant French court dance. The Badinerie ('playfulness') is a virtuoso movement for the solo flautist. This is probably the most well known showpiece for the flute.
Arranging and playing this piece with five harmonicas is quite a challenging task in order to preserve the original orchestral effect and the balance between the solo instrument and the accompanying parts.
Rumanian Folk Dances (1917)
Stick Dance - Sash Dance - In One Spot - Horn Dance - Rumanian Polka - Fast Dance - Fast Dance
The Rumanian Folk Dances was composed in 1915 for piano solo and arranged by the composer two years later for small orchestra. This time, the orchestral score is re-arranged for the Harmonica Quintet.
The seven movements are authentic Rumanian melodies which were crafted ingeniously into a homogenous work with melodic and harmonic contents characteristic of Eastern European cultures.
Golden Age Ballet Suite (1934)
Although the work only lasts for two minutes, Shostakovich managed to pack a variety of melodies and harmonies into it to make it the most captivating to the listeners. There are no less than 8 solo instruments (in the order of appearance): piccolo clarinet, xylophone, saxophone, tuba, French horn, violin, flute, double bassoon.
When arranged for the Harmonica Quintet, this poses a serious challenge to the arranger and the musicians. While it is not possible to imitate all the solo instruments, the harmonicas are flexible and versatile enough to capture the essence of the work. It is sure to become a unique item in the repertoire of the Harmonica Quintet.
String Quartet No.12 in F Major "American", Op.96 (1893)
IV. Finale: Vivace ma non troppo
The quartet was composed in a remarkable fortnight while Dvorak spent his summer vacation in a Czech community during his stay in America. The finale is energetic right from the beginning. A solemn episode provides an appropriate break and reminds one of an organ in a church. Momentum continues to build up until the impressive climax that concludes the work.
This is one of the earliest pieces in the repertoire of the Harmonica Quintet and it still remains to be one of the most successful pieces of the Quintet. It even leads one to believe that Dvorak actually wrote it for harmonicas!