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CD Review: Viktor Romanko
Faszination Bayan
Viktor Romanko, Bayan


Praludium, Fuge und Variationen: C. Franck, arrangement by V. Romanko
Kloster Von Verapontov: W. Solotarjov
Kinder Suite Nr. 6: W. Solotarjov
Suite "Russische Bilder": A. Byzov
Don Rhapsodie: V. Semjonov
Drei Praludien: G. Gershwin
Nocturne: V. Tschernivkov
Lustiger Cowboy: V. Tschernikov
Georgische Tanz "Panduri": O. Tatakischwili, arrangement by V. Romanko
Karpaten Suite: V. Zubitsky

total time: 68:39
Released in 2002
Review date: Jan. 2003

Label: jb music
Weiherstrabe 9 - D-57271 Hilchenbach

Review by Robert Berta:

As some of you know...I take quite a long time to review a CD...I like to "live" with a CD through many playing to see if it grows on me and begs for more playing...or grows old as is quickly relegated to the back of my CD library.

This CD certainly has the distinction of being one of the most played CDs I have is terrific! But before I jump into a review I should give a bit of a bio on this outstanding musician. Viktor Romanko was born in 1953 in Russia and is a professor at the Ural Conservatory in Ekaterinburg/Russia. He was 1st prize-winner at the Klingenthal international competition in 1983, He also received first prize for improvisation art in Russia in 1992. He received numerous prizes at many competitions in the former soviet union and was recognized with the "Outstanding Artist Achievement in Russia" award in 1994. Needless to say, with a resume like this I expected to hear something very special...and it is indeed!

The finest performance can be destroyed by poor recording and thankfully the recording engineers knew what they were doing...the sound is gorgeous. While the "sound" is in the tradition of Russian bayan recordings...strong heroic sound and lots of natural reverb, it isn't overdone and the recording never gets in the way of the musical performance.

The first selection Praludium, Fuge Und Variationen is particularly beautiful. Franck has always been one of my favorite composers...and this very special arrangement and performance by the artist captures the nuances of the composition and conveys them with all the "tools" that the bayan can provide. From the introspective sounds of the prelude, maestro Romanko moves into the powerful fugue movement bringing all the majesty of his bayan to bear. The variations movement further adds color as it builds to a dramatic peak and than leaves in a graceful exit.

I have heard various compositions by W. Solotarjov before and always enjoyed them. While he was a modern composer, he died in 1975, his music has always struck a chord with my musical interests. The first on this CD is Kloster Von Ferapontov which is a "heavy" dramatic composition and while very easily outdone by the next selection, Kinder Suite Nr. 6 . In particular I love the Im Dorf movement. In most countries...folk music and classical music are seen as two very distinct genres. In Russian music the two are always not far from each other. Much Russian classical music is a derivative of the folk music of the people. Perhaps that is why Russian compositions evoke so much emotion in people. The music that is creates from this coexistence celebrates and honors the traditions and culture of the people and yet takes it to new dimensions of technique, creativity and artistry.

A little less "modern" tone is found in the Russiche Bilder suite by Byzov. While this composer is still alive...his musical taste seems to celebrate a little more traditional folk sound in this composition. I am not that familiar with this composer but found his compositions delightful.

Professor Semjonov's Don Rhapsodie was a special treat to me. I have had the pleasure of having visited with the professor on a couple of concert tours to the United States and attended a couple of concerts. In one of the concerts the professor joked that the Don Rhapsodie was like his "green card"...everyone expects him to play it and that usually is his opening selection in a concert. It is perhaps his most famous composition. I have Professor Semjonov's CD that includes the suite as well as some recordings I made when the professor played here. It is always fascinating to compare the performances of the original composer with that of others performing those compositions. Often I come away feeling that the artist missed the mark on the nuances and dynamics the composer intended. In this case Romanko performs in a arrangement that would make professor Semjonov smile. Even where he drifts a bit into his own interpretations he doesn't loose the intent of the composer and instead pays homage to him in a truly virtuoso performance. In particular I noted his extraordinary bellows control yet never once did the performance drift into a technical performance at the expense of artistry.

I was delighted to see that the CD included three compositions by our very own George Gershwin. They were very creatively arranged and performed and the fact they were included on this CD indicates the high regard that Gershwin is held in Russia. I thought back and it seems interesting how many times Gershwin is included in Russian concert performances. As I noted earlier...Russian music blurs the distinctions between classic and folk and Gershwin created his compositions on a foundation of American ethnic music. Perhaps he is seen as a "soul mate" by these Russian performers.

The Nocturne by Tschernikov was very interesting to me. It seemed to borrow a bit of the feel of American "blues" styles. It was followed up by a delightful and fun tune called Lustiger Cowboy. It features a "speed of light" performance and technical brilliance. I would love to know what Tschernikov's inspiration was for this fabulous composition!

The Georgische Tanz "Panduri" by Taktakkischwili was interesting but not really to my taste. As a composition it seemed to not have a clear direction. Perhaps it needed more development of the theme...or maybe I need to listen a few more times ;-). On the other hand the Karpaten Suite by Zubitsky was quite delightful and perhaps was the one that pushed the "envelope" more than any tune on this CD. In particular the Vivacessimo Molto Preciso and Festivo A Piacere movements were notable and proved to be a showcase for the formidable talent of the artist.

With this CD Viktor Romanko indeed proves that he is in a very select group of individuals who can be called the best of the best. This CD represents a masterful performance both technically and artistically, excellent recording, terrific selection of compositions and in short this is near the top wrung one of my list of favorite accordion CDs.

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