Sadko from a Russian fairy tale played the harp, and Finnish and Karelian musicians used a very similar musical instrument – the kantele. It belongs to the chordophone family, its closest “relative” is the zither. It is considered the most famous in Karelia and Finland. In Northern Europe, there are legends about him, legends, epic stories are preserved.
Finnish gusli have a simple device. In ancient times, they were hollowed out from a fragment of alder wood, giving the appearance of a box, supplied with strings from animal veins or horse hair. Now kantele is a stand on which strings are fixed, a resonating soundboard, tuning pegs. A string instrument is made of spruce, birch pegs, strings have long been made of metal.
The size of the Karelian kantele is small. Its length is no more than 80 centimeters – it is convenient to transport, carry with you from house to house. The number of strings may vary. In ancient times there were only five. Now musicians use instruments with 16 and 32 strings. The former are diatonic, the latter chromatic. Folk music is performed on diatonic copies, chromatic ones are used in classical performance.
History of origin
The ancients attached ritual significance to the instrument. Everyone who wanted to play it could not. Only people initiated into the sacrament were allowed to the strings. Usually the elders of the family were the performers of the runes on the kantele. No one dares to say when kantele appeared. He could get to Karelia from Finland or the Baltic, where a similar species was used, called “kankles” or “kannel”. The diatonic structure of the psaltery made it possible to play only simple tunes, to accompany uncomplicated folk songs.
Everything changed in the first half of the XNUMXth century, when the creator of the Kalevala epic runes, the Finnish epic collector Elias Lennrot, improved the kantele. He divided the strings into two rows, one of which contained those that in the piano fingering correspond to the black keys. The result was an instrument with a chromatic scale, which was now suitable for performing academic music.
The copy created by Lennrot was saved. The dream of the master was to spread kantele all over the world, to teach how to play it in all music schools. A hundred years after the collector of folklore, Viktor Gudkov, editor of the Kandalaksha newspaper, took a closer look at the Finnish harp. He was so impressed with the beautiful sound that he made changes to the structure of the kantele and even created an ensemble.
Cantelists traveled all over the country, recorded old songs, performed them on the stages of the Houses of Culture. In 1936 they won the All-Union Radio Festival. Gudkov created drawings according to which the first prima and piccolo-kantele, viola, bass and double bass were made
As in the old days, the string instrument is used for solo performance. Folk songs and heroic tales are sung to its sounds. Kantele with chromatic tuning are used in orchestras. There are several varieties that differ in pitch:
Having come to professional academic music, the Finnish gusli began to be called an orchestral instrument.
How to play kantele
The musicians sit down on a chair, lay the harp on their knees. The strings are plucked with the fingers of both hands. The right one sets the main tone, is responsible for sorting out the strings of the extreme and middle registers, the left one fills in the gaps.
In ancient times, the fingering was simpler. On the 5-string kantele, a specific finger was “fixed” to each string. The strings are touched with fingertips, sometimes touched with a fingernail. If the chordophone sounds in the orchestra and performs the function of a harmonic support, then rattling is used. With this technique, learning to play in music schools begins.
Few ancient instruments today can boast such popularity. In ancient times, it sounded at all village festivities. In the northern Ladoga region, lively, cheerful, dance melodies were widespread.
In the XNUMXth century, the repertoire of the Finnish gusli expanded. Traditional works that have undergone professional processing continue to be used. At concerts, author’s compositions for this instrument are heard. Solo is less common. Ensemble music is used more often.
Jazzmen, rock musicians also did not bypass the Finnish harp. They often use them in arrangements. Inimitable sound gives a special color, sophistication to the overall sound background. You can also hear kantele in soundtracks for modern films. In recent decades, festivals have been organized that reveal the beauty of this fabulous instrument, its expressiveness and mystery.