Grigoraș Dinicu’s “Ciocârlia” (“The Lark”)
Notes by TŌN violinist Judith Kim
The lark, a bird known for its particularly melodious and complex song, has been the focal point of countless pieces of art over time. In the western classical music tradition, the lark is most famously represented by English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams in The Lark Ascending for violin and orchestra (violin and piano in the first version). And it is because of the soaring violin melody that Joseph Haydn’s String Quartet No. 53 was called “Lark.”
His Grandfather’s Tune
It is apt, then, that the violin virtuoso and composer Grigoraș Dinicu further popularized the pan flute tune written by his grandfather Angheluș Dinicu—inspired by the lark—by arranging it for violin and piano. This same tune was also the inspiration of another virtuoso violinist and composer, George Enescu, who used the melody in his Romanian Rhapsody No. 1 for orchestra. Since there are many interpretations of this tune, it is sometimes mistaken for Romanian folklore, but its true roots are în lăutărească music. Lăutărească were Romanian professional musicians; their music required technique and training, and included a much wider range of influences than folk music.
A Colorful Palette of Textures
Grigoraș Dinicu is most known for his other violin showpiece, Hora Staccato. The sound of Ciocârlia definitely lies in the same realm as Hora Staccato and is certainly as virtuosic. The solo line occupies the highest register of the instrument, imitating birdsong and creating a colorful palette of textures evoking bird chirps and flight.