Andrey Sychra (1773-1850):
Grand Fantasia, on motives from der Freischütz

For the Russian seven-string guitar in open G tuning: D’, G’, B, d, g, b. d’.

16 pp., $9.95, Presser Order number 494-02882 (PWYS-103)

Andrey Osipovich Sychra was born in Vilno (today Vilnius, Lithuania) in 1773. The family originated in Bohemia, and already in the seventeenth century moved to the western provinces of the Russian empire, which at the time included Poland and Lithuania. Andrey’s father Joseph, was a harpist and music teacher by profession and served in the houses of the local nobility. He is credited with the earliest known Polish source for the polonaise, a 1772 manuscript collection containing 62 polonaises. Naturally, Andrey’s first instrument was the harp, on which he was reputed to have been a ‎great virtuoso, appearing in public in Vilno and its environs. He is also reported to have played the six-string guitar, and eventually settled on the seven- string guitar as the instrument to which he dedicated his life.

Sychra arrived in Moscow at the beginning of 1801. He began a long and productive career as a composer and teacher of the seven-string guitar. He became the dominant figure in the field and created for himself a huge following.‎In 1812, perhaps because of the chaos caused by Napoleon’s campaign in Russia and the famous Moscow fire of that year, Sychra moved to the Russian capital St. Petersburg, where he was to remain for the rest of his life. Sychra rarely appeared in concert, preferring to present his students to the public, with the occasional active participation by himself. As reported by some of his students, he was a formidable performer in his own right. The number of his students was considerable and as evident from the dedications to them on many published works by Sychra, they were often members of St. Petersburg’s high society and the Imperial Court. Some of his students became well known as performers and composers, who also contributed to the culture of the guitar in Russia. The better known among them were Semion Aksionov, Vasilii Svintsov, Fiodor Zimmermann, Vasilii Sarenko, Vladimir Morkov, Nikolai Aleksandrov, Pavel Beloshein, and Osip Petrov.‎ Sychra died in St. Petersburg in 1850 in abject poverty.

Sychra’s preoccupation with operatic transcriptions was commented upon by Mikhail Stakhovich in his famous history of the Russian seven string guitar, pointing out in particular this very composition as a “successful” fantasia in which the composer’s depiction of the orchestra on the guitar was “the perfections itself.” Andrey Sychra made several arrangements and potpourris on themes from der Freischütz. He also arranged and published arrangements of material drawn from all the major operas of his time, such as works by Rossini, Bellini, Meyerbeer, Herold, Boildieu, Glinka, Verstovsky et al. But his Grand Fantasia on themes from der Freischütz stands out as one of his major compositions for the seven-string guitar. In considering the work as a guitar composition, we can easily agree with Stakhovich’s characterization of it as “the perfection itself.” Although the Grand Fantasia is based on motives from der Freischütz, in essence a potpourri, as a composition for the guitar it is an accomplished invention, which results in a truly idiomatic virtuoso masterpiece. This edition, the first edition of this work outside Russia, is based on a nineteenth century autograph manuscript.

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