No other instrument has as much right to be called ethereal as the theremin. Not only is its tone eerie and otherworldly but its notes are literally plucked out of the ether by the player’s hands in a series of passes and gestures more reminiscent of a shaman than a musician.
The instrument was first demonstrated to the public in 1920 by its Russian inventor Leon Theremin. By 1928 he was playing it on stage with the New York Philharmonic. He went on to use his knowledge of electronics and acoustics to devise a number of listening devices successfully used by the KGB.
The theremin enjoyed its heyday in the 1930s and 40s where virtuosos such as Clara Rockmore, and Lucie Bigelow Rosen toured the concert halls and a whole theremin orchestra once graced the stage of Carnegie Hall.
Its sound quickly became shorthand for the supernatural and sinister and was much in demand in the movie industry, being used in the soundtracks for films such as Spellbound and The Day the Earth Stood Still. Robert Moog started his career building theremins in the 1950s and it inspired him to create the first synthesiser.
Lydia Kavina who studied the instrument under its inventor himself in Moscow is one of the world’s leading theremin virtuosos and has helped engender the instrument’s renaissance over recent years.
Lydia Kavina’s most notable recent works include a solo performance in Danny Elfman’s UK concert tour with the BBC concert orchestra and London Concert orchestra (2013-2014), as well as the theremin solo in ”The Little Mermaid”, a ballet by Lera Auerbach.
As a solo performer Ms. Kavina has appeared at such prestigious venues as the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, London Royal Albert Hall, Chatelet Theatre in Paris, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Caramoor center NY, USA. She collaborated with the Netherlands Radio Orchestra under Reinbert de Lewes, National Philharmonic Orchestra of Russia under V. Spivakov, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Duesseldorfer Philarmonica and other.
Lydia played for a number of film soundtracks including “Ed Wood” and “eXistetnZ” with music by Howard Shore and ”The Machinist” by Roque Banos.