|The magic is in the hands|
Today, one of the very few real theremin-players with a close affinity to the instrument is Muscovite Lydia Kavina. No wonder, as she is the grandniece of the instrument's inventor, Lev Termen, and was instructed by Mr. Termen himself. Not only does Lydia Kavina frequently play on stage (often with orchestras or smaller ensembles), but she also runs workshops and master courses for aspired thereminvox-players.
Why is it that the thereminvox has always appealed so much to female players? Well, in some sense the thereminvox itself is sort of a "female" instrument: its sound can be characterized as fragile and ethereal, maybe intellectual, but never aggressive or mean, even in the lowest registers - and sometimes the sound even resembles a female voice. No wonder then that the first famous soloist on the thereminvox has been a woman: Clara Rockmore.
Since its heyday in the 1920ies, the thereminvox has seen its popularity rising and waning periodically. It was never granted a real breakthrough as a popular instrument - maybe because it is not easy to play. Of course, getting some strange sounds out of the instrument is not too hard, but it takes a lot of practice to play whole songs or even classical pieces on the thereminvox. The ether control, as free and human as it seems, gives no visual indication of notes and scales in the way a fretboard or a keyboard would. So a highly disciplined playing technique is absolutely paramount in tackling with ether-controlled instruments.
Some composers have tried to
write for the thereminvox as a solo instrument or even thereminvox-ensembles,
but the compositions always turned out to be very hard to perform on stage
- especially if an orchestral ensemble was involved. After all, the thereminist
has a whole different approach towards his instrument than a cello- or
violin-player: the magic is in the hands.
Clara Rockmore, the first famous thereminvox-player