Jazz & Improvised music webzine

Evelyn Petrova
Year’s Cycle

by Matthew Sumera
7 September 2004

Accordion player and vocalist Evelyn Petrova, former student of and collaborator with trumpet virtuoso Vyacheslav Guyvoronsky, has released a striking solo statement in Year’s Cycle, twelve pieces devoted to the months of the year. These are folk-like pieces intermixed with vocals (ranging from lyrical statements to the most extreme histrionics) and founded upon extraordinary accordion technique and improvisational skill.

As the album is meant to be heard as a continuous piece, a meditation on the calendar year and the significance of season change in Russian society, singling out moments seems a bit misleading. There is a natural flow throughout the CD from one piece to the other, detailing a compelling sequence with distinct character. With that said, there are certain pieces that feel more familiar, more song-like, and will most easily resonate with a new listener.

«December» is a beautiful song with lyrics originating from, as the helpful liner notes point out, the Pskov region. It is filled with constant sustain from accordion, with sinewy passages in the upper register throughout. Petrova’s vocals are at their most obviously lyrical here, eschewing her vocal extremes until the end of the piece. It’s a wonderful introduction.

«January» is filled with vocal percussive effects and lightening fast runs, with the primary theme a swinging 6/8 time dance. It is a compilation of songs from the Novgorod region. April is «The Lullaby», also in 6/8, addressing the time of Lent. It’s a more vocally reserved piece (except for something resembling the sound of crickets at the very beginning of the piece) than many of the others, featuring a compilation of songs from the Moscow region.

June is an instrumental, subtitled «Promenade». It’s a showcase for Petrova’s remarkable accordion technique, highlighting a preference for constantly shifting tempos. Followed immediately by the growling vocal introduction to «July», it’s an interesting juxtaposition. Were «June» feels traditional, «July» (at times) would even frighten Marilyn Manson.

«November» rounds out the disc with some more energetic singing, sometimes a bit too brittle and affected. The accordion again is almost beyond critique, with some truly inspired playing. The sustained scat-like vocals will test even the most experimental of ears.

Year’s Cycle is yet another remarkable project from Leo, and endless thanks must go to Feigin and others for searching out and documenting this music. At times beautifully, stunningly played, the end impression is one of a master musician who has a love for the traditional music of her country, extended improvisational techniques, and the full range of extended vocal sounds. Probably of limited appeal (the vocal quirkiness grates after awhile) but certainly not lacking in interest.

Evelina Petrova and Roberto Dani
Part of the project "Mirrors. Dedication to Andrey Tarkovsky"
Fornacepasquinuci gallery, Italy 2014

Two fragments
(Lullaby, Round-Dance)

Evelina Petrova and Alexander Balanesku. Video from Ethnomechanica world music festival 2009 in Saint-Petersburg.

Previous concerts

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