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“Tales” by Shulgin in Japan

– Everyone is accustomed to saying that the sky is blue, but your sky has a different color and it is so wonderful…
– What color is my Sky?
– The color of a harp…
– Can the Sky exist without the Sun? Then, what color is my Sun?
– It is the color of Love and a cello is its frame… Everlasting Love like this will turn into cranes and fly along the sunrays from Yesterday to Tomorrow.
– And what is our Today? Today is white lilies and our Eternity…

From the very first notes, I listened to the new album for harp and cello “Tales” by Alexander Shulgin, a famous Russian composer, with genuine fascination. I know his other albums, songs, and film music very well – that is why I wanted to hear his new album without delay – after all, Shulgin turned to instrumental music, to such classical instruments as the harp and the cello, yet again.

The album is recorded by word-famous musicians, who are attuned to each other so finely; their performance accentuates the exquisiteness of the creatively different music. This performance is like an elegant, precious ring, a setting that affords the gem – Shulgin’s music – a unique charm, and a tangible alexandrite effect.

The musicians’ artistry is stunning. The charismatic harpist Maria Luisa Cordell performed intricate passages immaculately and with virtuosity; her fingering was unique, absolutely non-conventional; her vibrato faultless. Julian Lloyd Weber, a graduate of the Royal College of Music in London, played a cello made in 1690 by the famous Stradivari; its sound was intense, full and warm. Weber is a master of rubato.  All of the above, as well as the fine delivery of the integrity of the form, leave an impression of the inspired superb quality, and highlight Alexander Shulgin’s genius.

A curious fact: for a long time, the Stradivari’s cello had belonged to Alexander Barzhanskiy, a well-known Russian cellist, who lived in Moscow in Chekhov’s time, and this instrument’s fate is tightly bound to Russia and Russian music.

A starry host of seductive ascendant fifths is the keynote of the album. Like billions of twinkling stars and flocks of white cranes, they travel through all the compositions and select keys of the album along descending halftones; they lead us around a circle they create, as if around the circle of the Universe.

An interweaving of styles, from classics to a romantic narrative that brings listeners to singular relaxation, philosophical contemplation and conceptualization that are intrinsic to Shulgin’s creative works, a wealth of harmonies and tonal transitions in the album’s compositions – all of this will definitely be of interest to a wide audience.

Several initial compositions in the minor key wage a contest in a color palette of the minor. They are joined by a common melody of bases. The palette runs from the darkest tunes to the most luminous. Just as Rafael, Shulgin uses the light and half-hues masterfully; he acts like an Early Renaissance maestro, like a storyteller, who is afraid to omit the most minute details of a story.

A tiny F-sharp composition with tonal transitions to light D-major represents an image of a woman who is notable for her softness and roundness of her forms. The composition exhales a harmonious coloration and tranquility.

In his B-minor composition, the author lays before us visions of the elements. It is accomplished through the use of rhythmical bases – as if they were bells; against their background, a dramatic, replete with yearning melody sounds, and an impression of trees, swaying in the wind, and a human being, why tries to change something with his own efforts, is created.

Through the album, the steps of the bases have a particular role: brought to being by different musical instruments, they are interpreted as various bell tones. They create an image of the native land.

The smallest and marvelously endearing composition in bright G-major causes a spontaneous smile. The composition is like a decorated jewel box with amusing rhythm and playful syncopations. An image of a young lady, pure and gentle, appears before the eyes; the harp’s pizzicato adds ethereality and transparency to the image.

The music of Shulgin’s new album for harp and cello is very poignant, gentle and passionate at the same time. The author, who appears before us, is a great Russian romanticist, who lives during difficult times of change, and who now has reached his creative prime.

The author’s creative potential is one of a kind. The richness of the visions he creates, his use of, and experimenting with different instruments, both contemporary and from the past, evoke a wish to get acquainted with Shulgin’s entire work as well as to expand one’s music collection by purchasing Shulgin’s CD/DVD – an album created by one of the most estimable contemporary musicians.

Natalia Yurkanova

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