My interest in Edison Denisov’s (1929-1996) Guitar Sonata (1981) grew after hearing his marvellous Sonata for Flute and Guitar of 1977 (of which I found 5 recordings) but I never could get my hands on the first and only recording of this sonata by German guitarist Reinbert Evers. Having recently been recorded by Xingye Li (ClassicClips No. CLCL 126, 2014) I could finally hear it, and what a treat !

Edison is one of the leaders of the post-Shostakovich generation of composers in Russia comprising Schnittke and Gubaidulina, both of which have written for the guitar.

Edison’s sonata is in three movements: I. Toccata • II. Berceuse • III. Souvenir d’Espagne

The first movement is a toccata exposing forceful musical ideas in the form of relentless arpeggios that explore the bass, middle and high registers of the instrument leading to an abrupt ending.

In sharp contrast with the restless first movement, the second, Berceuse (lullaby), shows a contemplative, bittersweet and appropriately soothing atmosphere where time is suspended each time chords are slowly strummed at the end of phrases.

The third movement, Memories of Spain, starts with rasgueados that sound almost brutal after the quiet Berceuse. Any existing Spanish memories in the composer’s mind seem somewhat distorted and it is more in the gesture (use of rasgueado, recognisable rhythmic procedures) that one can refer to Spain. Again, this movement ends abruptly.

In my opinion, this sonata is quite a find. It is strong and full of character and if you feel comfortable with the language of Brouwer’s Sonata of 1991 or Michael Tippett’s The Blue Guitar Sonata (1983) you will have no problems in making a new friend. Denisov has also composed In Deo speravit cor meum for violin, guitar and organ (recorded once with flute, guitar and organ) and, to my knowledge, a never recorded Guitar Concerto (1991). Of course, Xingye Li’s interpretation is gorgeous (listen to excerpts at https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/xingye-li/id883277994)

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