Magazine article Guitar Player

The Golden Age of the Russian Guitar

Magazine article Guitar Player

The Golden Age of the Russian Guitar

Article excerpt

Oleg Timofeyev The Golden Age of the Russian Guitar

Most guitarists will be surprised to learn that the 6-string Spanish guitar is not the only "classical" member of our family. Now largely forgotten, the 7-string Russian guitar was a 19th-century concert immanent Tuned to open G (D, G, B, D, G, B, D, low to high), the Russian guitar is pitched lower than its 6-string sister (think dropped-D), and offers more thirds than fourths in its tuning.

Spanish and Russian gut-string guitars developed in parallel. Both emerged in the late 1700s, and each had established repertoires and virtuosos by the early 1800s. Two great players and composers popularized the 6-string guitar in Europe: the Spaniard Fernando Sor (1778-1839) and Italian Mauro Giuliani (1781-1829). Their contemporary in Russia was Andrey Osypovich Sychra (1773-1850). Considered the father of 7-string Russian guitar, Sychra rarely performed, focusing instead on composing and teaching.

The Golden Age of the Russian Guitar features the compositions of Sychra, his star pupils, and other masters of the 7-string, beautifully played by Russian Oleg Timofeyev. Though these works vary in tempo and structure, the music conveys a bittersweet pensiveness that's well suited to the deep-toned 7-string. Even as the melodies soar, they exhibit an inherent melancholy.

Timofeyev plays with a strong, precise attack, yet he manages to coax round, warm timbres from his two antique Russian 7-strings (one built circa 1800, the other 1860). …

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