Nikita Koshkin – Composer

Nikita Koshkin (born February 28, 1956) is a classical guitarist and composer born in Moscow.

His early influences included Stravinsky, Shostakovich and Prokofiev, as well as rock music. Koshkin first came to prominence with his suite “The Prince’s Toys,” completed in 1980 and first performed by the Czech-born guitarist Vladimir Mikulka. It depicts the fairytale world of a child in which his toys come to life and, eventually, abduct him to some other dimension. The suite incorporates numerous sound-effects on the guitar to paint images: the so-called ‘snare drum’ effect, for example, created by holding down crossed B and E (or low-E and A) strings with the left hand, to imitate the drums of toy soldiers. Other extended techniques include scraping the strings with the fingernails; a large variety of percussive effects; ‘playing’ the strings between the tuning heads and nut, or the knotted sections of the strings on the bridge; ‘hammer-ons‘, where the left hand fingers suddenly depress the string against the fingerboard without the intervention of the right hand; and so on.

Koshkin’s most celebrated guitar work is “Usher-Waltz.” a piece inspired by the Edgar Allan Poe story The Fall of the House of Usher, in which Poe wrote, “I listened, as if in a dream, to the wild improvisations of his speaking guitar.” Koshkin’s piece was written for the famed guitarist Vladislav Blaha. Cast in a single movement, it is a motoric waltz whose careering harmonic progression around A minor threatens, and ultimately succeeds, in tearing the music apart. Its climax is an extraordinarily effective sequence of pounded right-hand chords, ‘Bartók pizzicato‘ (where the strings are deliberately snapped back against the fingerboard), and then ghostly harmonics. Like much of Koshkin’s work it has an immediate appeal to a wide audience who are both astonished at the visceral impact of the piece, and at the range of sounds coaxed from the guitar, which sounds “bigger than it really is”. It was made famous by John Williams‘ performance, in the ‘Seville Concert’ CD, in 1993.Other famous performers of Koshkin’s work include The Assad Duo and The Zagreb and Amsterdam Trios.

His set of variations “The Porcelain Tower” is another substantial and rewarding work for listeners, and for players of good intermediate or advanced standard, as is the “Andante quasi Passacaglia e Toccata: The Fall of Birds” (composed in 1978).

Besides writing works for solo guitar, Koshkin has composed guitar-ensemble music as well; in addition to numerous pieces for guitar duo, he has written two works for guitar quartet: Changing the Guard (1994), and Suite for Four Guitars (composed for the Georgia Guitar Quartet, 2007).

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