The prince’s Toys is not yet in the TOP 100 list since I have located only 8 complete recordings of this amazing piece. The Russian composer Nikita Koshkin took 6 years to compose this suite that clocks in at 25 minutes. Koshkin succeeds in creating contrasting and phantasmagorical atmospheres presenting arresting melodies that magnificently illustrate the adventures of the prince and his 4 toys. Here are the titles of each of its 6 movements:

The Prince’s Toys, Suite for Guitar (1980):

I The Mischievous Prince • II The Mechanical Monkey • III The Doll with Blinking Eyes

IV Playing Soldiers • V The Prince’s Coach • VI Grand Toy’s Parade (Theme with Variations)

Why is this piece important? It represents Koshkin’s attempt to use musically the many effects or musical devices available on the guitar such as snare drum effect in “Playing Soldiers”, descending chord glissandi imitating a horse neighing in “The Prince’s Coach” etc. Not only does he succeed musically (The Prince’s Toys is captivating to listen to) but also on guitar terms: one would be hard put to find an instrument capable of transcribing this piece. Something would be missing. Koshkin also tries to expand the guitar’s vocabulary by introducing new effects of his own (For example, left and right hand finger tapping on the fingerboard in “The Mechanical Monkey”, thumbnail sliding along the full length of the 6th string in the “Finale” etc… (See Stephen Goss’ article “Innovations in European Guitar compositions of the 1970s and 1980s”, Classical Guitar Magazine, October 1989 p. 35-39) Simply said, Koshkin boldly uses the guitar to the fullest while never sounding gratuitous. Each and every musical device is an essential part of the whole. The Prince’s Toys is a study of timbre or colour and a true ear-opener.

Personal note: Around the time this piece was composed (the 1980’s), some authors remarked that guitarists seemed to develop what was called a “plummy” sound with little or no use of colour. This sound apparently owed more to the piano than to the guitar. Was The Prince’s Toys an answer to those remarks?

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