Irina Kulikova has a considerable reputation, and deservedly so, and this latest CD should only enhance that. This time, she has delved into the world of contemporary Russian guitar composers, and many of these works may well be unfamiliar to many of you.
Konstantin Vassiliev (born 1970) writes in a melodic and moving style that is in no way hackneyed—as a result his fine works deserve all the publicity they can get. The Three Forest Paintings are wonderful examples of his writing. Available in a Gendai Guitar edition, along with two other works not recorded here, the score reveals his imagination, depth, and poetic turns of phrase that the guitar—and Kulikova here—do so well. It’s wonderful music to start off the CD.
His Swan Princess begins with some meltingly beautiful tones before changing into a faster, more enigmatic, and with its occasional use of whole-tone, almost French-sounding set of harmonies. The highly melodic Three Lyric Pieces are dedicated to Rachmaninov, Barrios, and Villa-Lobos respectively.
Sergey Rudnev’s two pieces (which can be found in Edition Orphee’s Russian Collection Vol. 3) are emotional and engaging works. “The Old Lime Tree” presents a set of variations on a Russian folk song, while “Between Steep Banks” is essentially a written-out improvisation on another song of the people.
Viktor Kozlov (born 1958) is represented here by three of his numerous guitar works, the longest and most complex being Dedication to the Russian Land, which has three main ideas, the first dominated by a little rhythmic theme that underpins the emotive opening passage.
Then comes a much faster dance-like section, followed by a more song-like passage; both are repeated before the opening idea reenters to close what is a most satisfying extended work. Kozlov’s Flying Dutchman is quite lyrical—perhaps surprisingly so, when one considers what Wagner did with a piece of that title! Kozlov’s middle section becomes more animated with a tremolo idea, but the opening mood returns to close it. His final work is dedicated to his wife, Elena, and is another stand-out piece, appropriately romantic.
Kulikova’s playing throughout is never less than superb. It is warm, emotional, and technically impeccable.
Altogether, this is a wonderful recording of some little-known works that deserve to be played more often than they are. Maybe this fine CD will help to rectify that.