Maestro series: Pavel Kuhkta

In Brief

  • Title: Pavel Kuhkta, First Prize Winner Guitar Festival Nordhorn Competition 2011.
  • Musician: Pavel Kuhkta, guitar.
  • Identification: Samsong Productions 8 713722 300144.
  • Recording: December 2011, Kulturhaus NIHZ, Nordhorn, Duitsland and Ivory Tower Studios, Bornerbroek, Holland.
  • Published: 2012.

Felecidade by Roland Dyens


My first introduction to recorded music by Russian guitarists was in the eighties. In those days we only knew one Soviet Union and the restricted access to this power block appeared threatening in the opinion of many west European people. The sampling of states we now know used to be rigidly united under communism.

As a beginning player I was collecting guitar records, a logical consequence of the fact that I played guitar myself. Obviously, I bought records from the well-known greats first. Yet, I scanned the record racks in the shops for interesting unknown material. Thus in my local record shop  I came across a guitar LP from the Melodia label, one of the major Russian export labels in the eighties.

I bought the record out of curiosity, but got disappointed a bit while listening. You could describe the atmosphere of the Russian compositions and the style of the guitarist best by means of the first line from the novel Bint by the Dutch author Frans Bordewijk, one of the exponents of the Dutch equivalent of the Neue Sachlichkeit in the early thirties of the last century (just remember the Bauhaus architecture, then you know what I mean). This quotation is: His mindset was stiff and gruf.

My impression of eastern-European and particularly Russian guitarists dramatically changed later, after I attended a number of concerts and competitions on the Twenthe and Nordhorn Guitar Festivals. At those occasions, I heard players that had the potency for world class and some of them perform there indeed!

This impression also involves the Belo-Russian guitarist Pavel Kukhta that I heard for the first time when he won the guitar competition of the Guitar Festival Nordhorn 2012. The prize yielded him a spot in the Maestro Series of the record company Samsong Productions, with a nice CD as the result.

The CD incudes an interesting collection of mainly quite well-known pieces by Tarrega, Mertz, Aguado, Brouwer, Assad, Piazzolla and Dyens. Yet Pavel Kukhta did not forget the music of his own country, the reason why the CD starts with a little suite by Vladimir Zakharov..

Striking aspects of Kukhta’s playing style are precision, finish, control and balance. This greatly adds to the transparency of a number of pieces on the CD. In some pieces the control aspect seems to lead to reserve that nevertheless in some way enhances the music. With other pieces (like Felecidade), Kukhta releases the brakes and adds power to the performance.

In my opinion highlights of this CD are The Carnival of Venice (I am just a lover of Mertz’ music) with its humour, the three pieces by Dyens amongst them the joyful Felecidade, the Fantasia Carioca by Assad and the Paisaje Cubano con Fiesta by Brouwer. In these pieces Kukhta makes a nice dash for it! Please note that the term highlight is relative and personal, because the level of Kukhta’s musicianship is high for every track!

Listening to this CD it became clear to me that besides the playing, the recording is a very important aspect too. The route between guitarist to microphone and further on in the chain the loudspeakers or headphones of the listener is a path of subtleties indeed! I found out that I have a clear and personal taste for recordings. I like intimate, detailed and slightly dry (little reverb) recordings, particularly when I listen via headphones. If the recording is more distant, or if it is made in a “wet” room, I start to lose track a bit. I guess that it’s because as a guitar player I am very close to the music and need a clear feedback for my play. A guitar with only forward projection used to drive me crazy!

The recording on this CD is quite spatial and places the player at a distance that –in my opinion- is larger than the “usual” distance between audience and stage. This distance appeared disadvantageous with fast passages, because the reverb interfered with the music, causing a slight loss of transparency. It’s like playing fast scales or tremolo in a large church, that’s quite hard to follow as a listener (and the player likewise).

On this CD, Pavel Kukhta played a guitar that was built by the Australian luthier Georges Ziatas, a modern instrument that offers a large dynamic range and tight response by design (amongst others by carbon fiber bracing and a curved back). This requires accurate control with particularly the older 19th century music and it offers opportunities for expression with contemporary music. Kukhta was able to exploit the guitar and put it into service of the music on the complete CD.

The CD booklet provides information about the player (I notice an impressive curriculum vitae), the guitar and the record label Samsong Productions. For information about the composers and the pieces, Internet is the medium today!

My conclusion is that there is a lot to enjoy on this CD. Not merely for the experienced guitar music enthusiast, but also for people that play a guitar CD for the first time! Recommendable!

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