The booklet notes for this Naxos release berate Western listeners for not understanding Russian folklore, but do nothing to establish a context for the pieces on the program, which are diverse and consistently enjoyable. Why should Russia have a flourishing contemporary guitar composition scene? All the uninitiated listener can do for now is listen and enjoy. The program has substantial pieces at each end surrounding more traditional and more tonal works. The performance of Valery Biktashev's Orpheus -- Poem (the reader does not even learn the composition dates of these works) is a world premiere. It is a programmatic work recognizably depicting (even though no program is supplied) the events of the Orpheus legend, and it embodies the sheer drama of the tale. The work makes use of extended techniques on the guitar, but the real pathbreaker in this regard is Nikita Koshkin's The Prince's Toys -- Suite, where the guitar's capacity to produce noises beyond simple string vibration is maximally exploited. Hear the blasts at the beginning of the "Toy Soldiers" movement (track 7), suggestive all by itself of a brass instrument accompanied by a snare drum. The work pushes the boundaries of guitar music in several ways while fitting comfortably into a long Russian tradition of circus and toy music; it is a real delight. Guitarist Artyom Dervoed, who has been active in musical genres ranging from classical to industrial, is equally confident in the stinging outer works and in the more sentimental idiom of Sergey Rudnev's The Old Lime Tree. Rudnev, born in 1955, is the eldest of these composers, which suggests that there are more riches from the new Russian generation awaiting discovery. The sound, recorded at St. John Chrysostom Church outside Toronto, is too harsh, but does capture the fine flourishes of the music Dervoed captures so enthusiastically. This is a good example of what Naxos has been accomplishing when the label fearlessly plunges into little-known but vital contemporary scenes.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|The Prince's Toys, suite for guitar|