Dimitar Ivanov:The Broken Balkan Polyrhythmic Etude
Updated: Apr 17
Les Productions D’Oz: 11 pages
To say that this Bulgarian composer has written one of the most difficult pieces I have ever come across, might give you an idea as to this piece’s content. The first thing you find is the three pages of Introduction in which the composer advises the player that before deciphering the piece, it is important to understand , achieve and apply on the guitar several smaller polyrhythmic goals in order to be able to cope with the piece you are about to play. You might think at first glance that this is a going too far, until you then see the score. Written in 10, 11, 13 /8 and 3/4 and marked As Fast as Possible you are then faced with 94 bars full of the most complex music where the numerous parts are consistently so rhythmically diverse as to bring nearly every player who attempts it , without doing the warm- ups as advised in the introduction, to a complete stop.
After four bars of a solo line where there are almost as many rests as notes, it repeats but this time with triplets and quadruplets as a lower line. After a couple of repeats where the lower part gets even more complex, chords are introduced into the top melody, still accompanied by the triplets and quadruplets, and still almost constantly off the beat and full of their own portion of rests. Then a Piu Mosso section in 10/8 (which in itself begs the question as to how you can go faster than ‘As Fast as Possible’) continues these ideas with two voices both a mixture of triplets, duplets and straight quavers, and eventually semiquavers, before the music returns to the opening section, almost where it left off with block chords in 11/8 above a hugely complex lower part. There are also moments of two staves where the composer tries to help the player with the multi rhythmic lines above, whilst playing some further open notes. In the final section the music reaches a climax in some of the most diverse and complex music I have ever seen.
To say that this piece is only for the very advanced player is putting it mildly, and in all honesty I wonder just how many players will want to, or be able to, play this very individual piece. But, if you fancy your chances then this is most certainly a piece to try!