What exactly is the Russian guitar? That’s actually a question a lot of guitarists themselves couldn’t answer. It’s a somewhat forgotten cousin of the Spanish guitar. While you see the resemblance in the family portraits, I say cousin rather sibling because it’s lineage is a little different which results in a couple distinct features, seven strings and a different style of tuning. It was close enough of to guitar however, that many advances in instrument construction of Spanish and Viennese guitars migrated to the Russian guitar, erasing a lot of the physical differences between the two instruments.
This isn’t the place for a long rambling talk about historical guitars and instruments of the Romantic era, plus I only think I know what I’m talking about. So, let’s leave it at that. If you’re interested in nerding out over this, there is plenty of information out there to be found, so be brave and jump in.
What this means to me is that I have a new tuning to explore. At first I was suspect of it, but I’ve come to really like it. The strings are closer to each other (in a musical sense). This means there is more shifting around as you play, but you’re able to do much more pianolike texture of voicings as well as easily harmonize your melody line (playing in thirds, sixths, etc). More importantly for my practice project, it means a fresh start. Not a cleanslate fresh start because I’m no stranger to guitar, but still fresh enough to be a learning experience. The Russian guitar feels both like an old friend and new love at the same time. The repertoire itself has this same feeling. As a composer, I trace my lineage to the Russian school. I’m not good enough to pretend I can claim any pedigree naming names, but still, the music itself feels more right to me than Spanish music ever has. To put it poeticly, in Russian guitar I have found the guitar I had always wanted but had never known.
Today’s piece is more of a sight reading challenge. Playing through a few new pages of the Sychra journal, I came across a piece with a gentle character that really touched me. It’s not particularly difficult, plus I like how it sounds slowed down despite the tempo marking, so I decided to see what I could do recording a piece I’ve only read through a few times.