A Brief History of the Russian Seven-String Guitar

Matanya Ophee

This is the lecture I gave at the 2011 GFA festival in Columbus, GA, on the occasion of receiving the Hall of Fame Award from the GFA. The lecture included several live musical examples played by myself and by my friends Oleg Timofyeev and John Scheiderman. These performances were not recorded and therefore, all references to them have been deleted here.

(…On his first visit to the Soviet Union in 1926, Andrés Segovia found himself surrounded by strange guitarists. They played a guitar which had seven strings and was tuned differently than his guitar. While they have heard the names of Sor and Giuliani, and even played their music on this odd-ball instrument, they hardly ever heard the names of Tárrega and Llobet. That was not acceptable to Segovia and he immediately set to convert the Russians to the six-string Spanish guitar. History will record that he was eminently successful in his proselytizing campaign. But as it happened with Columbus before him, Segovia set in motion a process which resulted in the almost total annihilation of a culture which had survived by that time for nearly two hundred years. The Russian seven-string guitar is now as scarce as the Taino Indians of the Caribbean. Today, there are a few seven-string players here and there in Russia, but for the most part, as we have seen from the participation of Russian guitarists in GFA competitions over the years, they play the same instrument as you do, and with few exceptions, they play the same repertoire. In various publications and lectures I have given over the past 28 years, I concentrated my historical analysis of the Russian seven string guitar on understanding the organological roots for its emergence. The discussion dealt with the inevitable encounter in Russia during the last decades of the eighteenth century between Italian and French guitarists playing the five string guitar tuned in fourths, and German and Czech…)

A Brief History of the Russian Seven-String Guitar

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