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Irina Kulikova : Reminiscences of Russia: Guitar Music by Russian Composers : CD

VASSILIEV: Three Forest Paintings a) The Old Oak b) Snowdrops c) Dance of the Forest Ghosts; Swan Princess; Three Lyric Pieces a) Elegie in Memoriam Sergey Rachmaninov b) Reminiscence in Memoriam Augustin Barrios c) Mogiana in Memoriam Heitor Villa – Lobos: RUDNEV: The Old Lime Tree; Between Steep Banks –Improvisation: KOZLOV: Dedication to the Russian Land; Flying Dutchman; Ballade for beautiful Elena.

Irina Kulikova

Naxos: 8.573308

At a time when Russia is most certainly not everybody’s favourite country, I feel absolutely fine about reviewing some marvelous Russian music written by some wonderful composers, and played by a superb Russian musician, Irina Kulikova who has a considerable reputation, and deservedly so.

The opening suite Three Forest Paintings is one of my very favourite set of pieces, as my copy of the published music from Gendai Guitar (Now apparently published by Trekel), is a book I have had for about 20 years now, and a collection of music by Konstantin Vassiliev. Immediately it is modern but haunting in its sound – world, with more than a touch of the Debussyan whole tone sound woven through it. It is quite a handful too, but not a problem for our guitarist, who gives it exactly the right feel, with the middle movement Snowdrop particularly moving emotionally. The final Dance of the Forest Ghosts is bizarre and goes from very fast to very thoughtful and back again, for a frenetic and utterly individual coda and a fortissimo slam on a deliberately unusual chord. The entire score reveals his imagination, his depth and his poetic turns of phrase that the guitar, and Kulikova here, does so well. Wonderful music to start off the CD! His Swan Princess begins with some meltingly beautiful tones before changing into a faster more enigmatic, and again, with its occasional use of whole – tone, almost French sounding set of harmonies. The Three Lyric Pieces are all melodic and deliberately song – like and a fine set of pieces

Sergey Rudnev’s pair of pieces (which can be found in Edition Orphee’s Russian Collection Volume 3) are emotional and engaging works, the first The Old Lime Tree being a set of variations on a Russian Folk – song and the second being essentially a written down improvisation on another song of the people.

Viktor Koslov (born 1958) is represented here by three of his numerous guitar works, the longest and most complex being the Dedication to the Russian Land which has three main ideas, the first dominated by a rhythmic little theme that underpins the emotive opening. Then a much faster dance – like idea emerges followed by a more song – like section, both of which are repeated before the opening idea re- enters to close what is a most satisfyingly extended work. His Flying Dutchman is lyrical, perhaps surprisingly so, when one considers what Wagner did with a piece of that title! Koslov’s middle section becomes more animated with a tremolo idea, but the opening mood returns to close it. His final work is dedicated to Elena, his wife and is another stand – out piece, with warm, romantic, and lyrical ideas that made me want to see the score!

I have not mentioned Kulikova’s playing hardly at all, so let’s rectify that by saying that it is never less than superb. It is warm, emotional and 100% impeccable, so after a few minutes of listening you realize that you are not waiting or any imperfections any more, as there is simply no need. Altogether this is a wonderful recording of some unfairly neglected works that should be played more often than they are. Maybe this review will help to rectify that. I hope so.

Chris Dumigan

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