Instrumental Soloists Ensemble ‘Philarmonia’
All the members of this ensemble have worked with conductor Marcel Verhoeff for over 20 years in the former Moscow Festival Ensemble. This extraordinary, professional group consists of laureates who play together with great pleasure and love for their craft. Many of them teach at the foremost institutes in Moscow, they perform solo concerts and are regularly asked as to perform as soloists with the big Russian symphony orchestras. The ensemble’s leader, Valery Elchik, also arranges and composes a lot. Together with Marcel Verhoeff, he creates arrangements especially tailored to the choir. In September 2009, the ensemble performed for Patriarch Kyrill and the Russian presidents Medvedev and Putin. The Instrumental Soloists Ensemble “Philharmonia” works closely together with the Don KosakenChor Russland and conductor Marcel N. Verhoeff.
The history of typically Russian instruments goes way back. The famous ballad singer Boyan sang his songs accompanied by a Psalter. The Psalter is the oldest Russian instrument. It’s like a cross between a harp and a zither and its shape is reminiscent of a bird’s wing. The Gusli, a type that was developed later, more closely resembles a small table. The Gusli is still used a lot today.
The Domra's body is shaped like a man's belly and has a long neck. It was particularly popular among stage actors and musicians. However, the Church had grave concerns about the instrument and many of the faithful were relieved of them, after which they were burned. [The instruments, not the faithful] The legend goes that a certain instrument builder developed an instrument that wasn’t round, but triangular in shape. Supposedly, this is how the Balalaika was born, to mislead the Church.
The Bayan is another important instrument in Russian music. A button accordion, its name derives from the aforementioned singer Boyan. The current version often makes a great impression because of its broad and refined tones. Originally, the instrument was called a harmony. Which was a lot smaller and had far fewer buttons. The older type survives to this day, but the Bayan is more common.
When and how the Balalaika was really invented is unknown. Only through the activities of Vasily Andreev, an especially famous musician, did Russian folk instruments appear in professional orchestras. He built the Balalaika together with instrument builder Kalinov and gave the Domra its modern day shape. Andreev developed a whole family of orchestra instruments and founded the first large folk orchestra. This orchestra went on to become world famous.