“Capriccio” by Áskell Másson starts very energetically and quickly, the small Darabuka drum, played by the composer himself, starts establishing an interesting rhythm that continues throughout most of the piece. The darabuka is an old instrument from the middle east. This particular drum was specially made for Áskell in Jerusalem, but the composer told YoungReporters after the concert that he had become interested in the instrument at the age of 10 by listening to it on old records of foreign music and consequently learnt to play it by himself.
There are three more soloists on stage, a clarinet, a cello and a violin along with the Darabuka. They complement each other very well and each have many moments to shine throughout the piece. The percussion instruments are very important, and though Áskells Darabuka takes centerstage at the performance, the three other percussion players from the Iceland Symphony Orchestra are not left out. During a slower passage, various percussion instruments are heard with an aluphone playing the central melody. This instrument was only recently acquired by the Iceland Symphony Orchestra and is comparable to a xylophone or marimba, but made from aluminium bells.
At this point, Áskells cadenza starts, where the darabuka is the only instrument playing. The soloist produces incredibly varied sounds from his small drum by using different parts of his hand each time to beat on the drum. After the concert, YoungReporters are catching the soloist composer backstage where he is celebrating the successful concert with many congratulatory friends. Áskell is very happy to explain and demonstrate many of his novel methods of playing. Among other things, he tells us that: “Mozart, much like myself – or perhaps it is better to say I, much like Mozart, play my cadenzas without any score to go off of. This is why they are always different, though they build on the same material”. Áskell goes on to talk about his way of producing overtones by positioning his fingers on the drum surface. “Much like a violinist, I can place my fingers along the skin of the drum to produce overtones. In this way, I am essentially reducing the surface of the drum to create new sounds”. Áskell has developed his own personal style on the Darabuka that sines through the virtuous performance. This concert is Áskells way of showing the world the capabilities and modern application of this traditional instrument.