Andrei Sychra (1773-1850):
Four Concert Etudes

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

The Russian Collection, Vol. II.

 To view first line incipits click here.

Here is a recording of Etude Nº 1, played by Mårten Falk. MP3 format, 1.9 MB.
This recording comes from Mr. Falk latest CD titled Russian Romantics Reborn. DB Productions, Sweden,
Nº dbCD120.
Used by permission.

56 pp., $19.95, Presser Order number 494-02125 (PWYS-13)

The original title of the work was, in translation, Practical Rules Consisting of Four Exercises. The title has been relabeled it according to its true nature as Concert Etudes.

The Four Concert Etudes, are large concert pieces on a scale never before seen in guitar music of the early 19th century, embodying a musical inventiveness far ahead of its time. In trying to understand the original title of the collection, one might wish to define the particular rules contained in it. The composer himself refrained from doing so and did not assign a didactical purpose to specific passages within the body of these works, restricting his verbal thesis to simple description of the notation and fingering. One is tempted to speculate that in his judgment it was not necessary to add any verbal descriptions of the various technical elements included in these exercises; the extremely detailed fingering notation provided ample explication of the didactical idea.

    Andrei Sychra was born in Vilno (today Vilnius, Lithuania) in 1773. The family originated in Czechia, and already in the 17th century moved to the western provinces of the Russian Empire, which included Poland and Lithuania. His father was a teacher by profession and served in houses of the local nobility. He must have been a professional musician as well, since he provided the only musical education of his son. Sychra'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 as a composer and teacher. He became the dominant figure in the field and created for himself a huge following. Sychra arrived in Moscow at the beginning of 1801. In 1812, perhaps because of the chaos caused by Napoleon's campaign in Russia and the famous Moscow fire of that year, Sychra had moved to St. Petersburg, where he was to remain for the rest of his life. He died there in 1850 in abject poverty.

Press reviews:

“ . . . To judge by the Four Etudes, [and] comparing it with that of the most prestigious guitarists who were his contemporaries, the compositional talent of Andrei Sychra was really uncommon. Clearly, this is not meant to re-evaluate Sor and Giuliani, authors that already in 1817 had given ample proofs of their sublime talents. Rather, one needs to note the intrinsic diversity of Sychra, which moved on such detached personal expressive paths, to render necessary an instrumental quest similarly unusual. His emotive tension was in fact so strong so as to force it to eschew the very schemes of classical composure. In his Etudes, one would be seeking in vain symmetrical phrases, orderly harmonizations and a certain predictable sense of the Viennese school, the cult of the form. Sychra had in fact broken the dykes that controlled a large part of the dominating aesthetic rules of his epoch, in order to travel along a road ruled by the full feelings of contrasts and by a passion no longer disguised. In other words, his [music is] expressed with the purest romantic idiom, characteristic of the visionary Russian composers that, with the passage of time, became known and even admired beyond their frontiers. In the Four Etudes we often find a tight interplay of modulations, an indispensable means for creating that anxious state that sharpens the quest of the unattainable, an alternation between states of calm and sudden rushes, the whole enclosed in the taut murmuring of arpeggios, long passages of legato scales, unexpected apparitions of sweet melodies. There are few thematic recapitulations: all seems to gush from a continual improvisation . . .  All that remains now is to play the Four Concert Etudes, and soon, that we hope to fully convince, or at least comfort a little the fastidious detractors of guitar music, always in pursuit of the authentic romantic page. Having thus served them, we will have to observe if, after so much bemoaning [the poor state of guitar music], they will learn to pass from verbal hankering to a clear critical understanding of something that risk of being greater than they.” Ruggero Chiesa, Il Fronimo.

“ . . . The obscurity of the contents may be explained primarily by the fact that these pioneering works were originally composed for the seven-string Russian guitar—an instrument which, until a few years ago, was virtually unknown in the west . . .  Compositionally, they easily live up to the title Concert Etudes—a name bestowed upon them by the present editor. The range of the instrument is explored to the full, and the harmonic language displays a degree of sophistication shared by few guitar works of the period . . .  there is no reason why a performer with both the technical skill and the interpretational insight should not cultivate all four works into a brilliant and worthy piece of concert repertoire. Presentation is of the highest order . . .  Printing quality is excellent . . .  For any time-served guitarist in search of a physical and intellectual challenge, this publication offers a set of historic works whose debut on the world stage is almost two centuries overdue.” Paul Fowles, Classical Guitar.

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