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American Record Guide, December 2008

Nikita Koshkin made his reputation with The Prince’s Toys in 1980, when it was given its premiere performance by Vladimir Mikulka (that recording is still available on BIS). It’s a remarkable work, filled with special effects that required new notation—one of the earliest works I know with such devices. It requires a virtuoso technique, a bold and imaginative personality, and more than a little daring. Dervoed offers all this. He is an assertive player, fascinating if you don’t mind a tendency to overplay. But this music needs this—it can’t be played by an introvert.

The other three works are strikingly different. Valery Biktashev’s Orpheus Poem is a sprawling piece, highly chromatic and rarely tonal. The notes claim the work is based on the Orpheus legend without any additional detail, and I frankly can’t hear it. The music is quite harsh (is this how you want to play the Divine Musician?), and that harshness is exacerbated by Dervoed’s overplaying. It lacks the imagery of the Koshkin that might make more sense of the tensions, and I doubt I’ll return to it often.

Sergei Rudnev’s Old Lime Tree is an elaboration of an old Russian folk tune. The notes by Matanya Ophee inform us that the work belongs to a genre literally translated as “long drawn out”, and conventional rhythmic organization such as meters and measures are not particularly relevant. To Dervoed’s credit, he interprets the work with a perfect balance between control and freedom and avoids the trap of sentimentality. It’s a very moving performance.

Sergei Orekhov was a generation before the other composers represented here, born in 1933, but his music might as well be a century before. If I didn’t know that it was by a contemporary Russian, I’d have guessed his Torika Variations was by Giuliani attempting some sort of evocation of Russian folk music. Here Dervoed is less inclined to overplay, and more to enjoy the technical challenges. He’s clearly having fun, and you will, too.

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