(The) Fall of Birds - Russian Guitar Works
Nikita Koshkin arrived on the contemporary guitar scene in the early 1980s with his groundbreaking suite The Prince’s Toys; he remains Russia’s most famous composer for the instrument. Two of his works on this disc, The fall of birds and Variations on a theme of Stepán Rak, are among the most remarkable in the guitar’s contemporary repertory, absorbing products of a powerful imagination. The former is ‘symbolic of the end of the world’, the latter came at a time when he was fascinated by Chinese art. The Elves are whimsicalities from his love of fairy-tales.
Sergei Rudnev, an almost exact contemporary of Koshkin, is more conservative. His Variations closely follow the structure of the song itself in a variety of imaginative textures – the most magical is the evocation of a distant (pianississimo) balalaika. Gennady Beljaev was born a decade later and his well-written Prelude and Three Valses may be seen as steps on his road from the overt influence of Koshin (with whom he has studied) to developing his own independent persona.
Evgeni Finkelstein is a formidable performer, possessing every quality required by this music, and the validity of his interpretations of Koshkin’s music derives from his close association with the composer. The recording quality is superb and Finkelstein’s annotation is informative, though his date for the genesis of the co-operation among Koshkin, Stepán Rak and myself is adrift by about four years. This is a thrilling disc that should be on the shelves of anyone who has the slightest interest in the guitar.