Mikhail Sytchev : Laterna Magica for two guitars
Updated: Apr 17, 2021
Les Productions D’Oz: score and separate parts (16, 8, and 9 pages respectively)
Russian –born Mikhail Sytchev has written some wonderful diverse pieces for the guitar and it has been my pleasure to see quite a few of them. They always occupy a slightly off – kilter set of harmonies, and sometimes remind me a little of his Russian compatriots, Prokofiev and Shostakovitch in their use of sometimes acidic harmonies that really spice up his musical language into something completely individual and yet very approachable.
This latest piece is in one movement but consisting of several contrasting sections that run straight into one another. A Moderato 4/4 with the melody in artificial harmonics starts the piece off, underpinned by the 2nd guitar playing a consistently shifting set of pizzicato bass notes, leading straight into a 6/8 Am idea with clashing fretted and open strung notes topped by a two – voiced melody on guitar 1 that jumps and slides around. Then an Agitato Con Moto in 2/4 briefly heats up the piece before suddenly turning into an Adagio where a repetitive harmonic idea on guitar one accompanies a melody that, like much of Sytchev’s harmony work, moves around in a totally unexpected fashion. The melody covers a lot of the fingerboard whilst the accompanying guitar is almost tango like in style. An Animato then intervenes with a stop- go bass line on guitar 2 and a melody that begins in pairs of augmented 4ths in guitar 1 before running into a very energetic melody that reaches top A on string 1. After a brief pause one of Sytchev’s ‘wrong note’ waltzes then enters which gathers momentum and subsequently becomes very large and after some climactic chords changes into an Allegretto new melody idea dominated by percussive trickery on the other guitar . Then after a very brief Largo with some oddly harmonized long chords, set against repeated As on guitar 2, a Scherzo enters. This jumps around via glissandi, and hammer – ons and pull- offs, until a reprise of the 6/8 Am idea, that originated near the beginning. Then a final 4 bars of Largo with harmonics and long voiced chords brings this complex piece to a close.
Its sub- title of Kaleidoscope aptly describes the constantly shifting sounds and speeds, and differing styles of music in this fascinating piece. It is definitely an advanced work, technically and yet is every bit as fascinating for s and listeners alike, and as such I can heartily recommend it as up to Sytchev’s usual and very high standards.