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Authors’ note
Guitar - an amazing instrument. It is modest and simple at the same time. It echoes the hands of both an amateur and a professional.
Guitar - an intimate instrument. The sounds of its strings are always sincere. It can be trusted with one’s feelings.
Guitar - a beautiful instrument. Its smooth curves are elegant and perfect. Classical strictness of its neck is delicate and noble.
There exist a great deal of wonderful instruments in the world. But on the eve of the spring, in a gloomy and snow stormy February, it is a guitar that is wanted to be heard. Nowadays, the Festival is an integral part of a very small group of people’s life and a great possibility for hundreds of grateful spectators to meet its Majesty the Guitar.

History in short

The Festival of Guitar Music “Menestrel” posters saw the light first in February 1992. The idea belongs too Eduard Chernivchan. The Director is Marina Romanovskaya. The logo of the project made by Alexander Vyshka, art-designer (Vitebsk). All Festival events are traditionally taking place in the Vitebsk Business and Cultural Center of the Joint-stock company “The Classics of Fashion Industries”.

The 1992 and 1993 Festivals were dedicated to the classical heritage. It was not “Menestrel” then, but “The Chamber Festival of Classical Guitar Music”. Since 1994, the Festival has widened the frames of a guitar art and the audience of the instrument admirers has been able to hear the music of talented arrangers and modernist, composers, to get familiar with other guitar schools and directions. Thus, at the 1997 and 1998 Festivals solo concerts were given by original musicians from Moscow Ivan Smirnov and Victor Zinchuk.

The Festival introduces a guitar as not only a solo instrument. The “Menestrel” allows the listeners to make certain of how rich its sounding is when accompanied by a symphony orchestra or played as accompaniment or a duet with lute, flute, piano. Each Festival opens up surprising potentialities of a guitar, keeps making the spectators familiar with its rich, centuries-old history and with the names of the greatest composers - Bach, Ponce, Tarrega, Albenis, Villa-Lobos, Barrios and others.

The “Menestrel” is traditionally held at the “junction” of winter and spring. A private motto of the Festival: “At a half hour before the spring…” Chamberness of public concerts is a characteristic feature of the “Menestrel”, not very large cozy auditorium (up to 200 persons), tables for the spectators, candles. The stage and the musicians are inside common theatrical scenery of the whole action - “the vaults of a Gothic cathedral”, “the inner courtyard of a patrimonial estate”, “the streets of a medieval town”. Within a context of the performance, specially made slide films are used (projected on three 3,5 m. by 5 m. screens), poetical readings and art exhibitions are held.

All the “Menestrel” concerts are customary sold out for every performance. Starting literally with the very first concerts, the audience’s interest has exceeded all expectations. That is why, since 1994, a closing Gala-concert in the Big Hall of the Business and Cultural Center (1000 persons), has been made provision for in the “Menestrel’s” programe. Thanks to the cooperation with the Belarusian gramophone recording company Beloton, a concert recording has been made and a rarity double disc (500 copies circulation) with the musical compositions performed by the Festival’93 participants has been released as well as an audiocassette with the 1995 Festival recordings.

Great honour was rendered to the “Menestrel’93” by a famous Russian composer Nikita Koshkin. A well known in the guitar world name attached a weighty image to the Festival from the very beginning of its existence. The maitre not only honoured Vitebsk with his presence but also presented one of his most recent compositions “The Watch” and took part in the disc recording. In that same 1993, for the first time in Belarus a partial recording of a newly found musical material from the famous “Polatski Shytak”, dated back to the 16 - Th. Century, was made after arrangement by Evgueni Gridyushko, a pedagogue of the Belarusian Academy of Music.

Getting familiar with an essentially new guitar GRAN (Guitar Russian Acoustic New) was one the most sensational events of the Festival’94. The guitar was first introduced in the Republic by Muscovite Anatoly Olshansky, one of the inventors. The National Music Institutes of the Western Europe and North America keenly appreciated GRAN’s capabilities, purity and profundity of its sounding. The Austrian GRAN-center has available written illustrations from Julian Brim, John William, Christopher Parking and other famous musicians and composers about the unique capabilities of the guitar. A special order was put in by the legendary English singer and composer, ex-Beatles Paul McCartney.

1997 turned out especially unique for the history of the Festival. Just for the time of the Festival, the participant in the international festivals of age-old music, honorary member of lutenists society of France, Great Britain and America Muscovite Alexander Suetin along with Ksenia Markina, the only one of former USSR who got higher musical education as a harp-player in Paris, created “Alternatum”, an original musical project. The owner of the famous collection of renewed old instruments Alexander Suetin introduced one of them - a barge lute. And Ksenia Markina brought to Vitebsk the only one in the world “live” barge harp of 17 Th. Century! The experts in many countries consider this harp to still have its original sounding. You can imagine how original compositions of those times written for these two instruments sounded when played by the duet. The owner of the unique instrument acknowledged that it was the rare happening when the harp left the museum repository, and Vitebsk was the first town to see the premiere of the duet.

The musicians from three countries took part in the Festival’2000 - Yan Skrygan (Belarus), Anatoly Olshansky (Russia) and Kurt Rodarmer (USA). The concerts of the Festival were given in Vitebsk, in Polotsk Sophia Cathedral, in Mogilev and Minsk. One of the concerts was held in the alma mater of Belarusian musical art - Belarusian Academy of Music. The heads and officials of many foreign embassies attended the performance, beside the teachers and students of the Academy.

Yan Skrygan, one of the “Menestrel’98”, this time again made a very favorable impression. A promising musician, student of Belarusian Academy of Music, presented local school of classic guitar highly satisfactorily.

Anatoly Olshansky amazed everybody as a composer. He played his own pieces written on the works of Gogol, Dostoyevsky, and Pushkin. As the specialists said, those were not just musical illustrations. The pieces contained a serious attitude to literature expressed in the light of sounding of the new GRAN-guitar.

Kurt Rodarmer, a phenomenal musician from the USA, became famous owing to his ten years’ work on the recording of “Goldberg Variations” by I. S. Bach. A gramophone company Sony Classical declared this recording to be a great event in the world of classical music having included his name in the golden cohort of pianists, violinists, and cellists. Taking the declaration in as a sensational one it must be noted in the first place that Kurt Rodarmer is a God-gifted musician and a master guitarist. In his past, Kurt Rodarmer was a student of maestro Segovia. His talent and extraordinary flair for reading music gave him access to the family archives of the great Ponce. It was for the first time that Vitebsk and Belarus heard a musician of the world level. The excellent guitarist’s participation in the Festival became possible owing to assistance of the US Embassy in Belarus

Besides perfectly arranged and well held musical meetings, the Festival’2000 had an unexpected continuation. Finalizing his visit to Belarus Kurt Rodarmer presented one-time encouraging awards to two young students of Belarusian Academy of Music Yan Skrygan and Natalya Lipnitskaya on his behalf. Also, thanks to Kurt Rodarmer the National Academy of Music got a barge lute made by a Belarusian master. The wonderful gift will allow to introduce a new subject - getting familiar with one of the oldest instruments of humanity - in the nearest future.

Actually every year, the events of the Festival are shot by the TV and recorded by radio crews with further broadcasting through the channels of the State radio and Television Company of the Republic of Belarus. Press conferences with the participants, art meetings and master-classes with the Vitebsk musicians as well as with the guests from other towns of Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Baltic republics are held within the Festival.

    From the very start of the Festival its participants were:
  • The participants in International competitions and festival - Viatcheslav Datskevich, Victor Maksimov and Gennady Yemelyanov (Vitebsk);
  • Prize-winners at Republican and International competitions - Valery Zhevalevsky, Viatcheslav Tarlrtsky, Evgueny Gridyushko, Valery Didulya and Yan Skrygan (Minsk, Belarus);
  • Prize-winners at Republican and International competitions - Vladimir Zakharov (Grodno, Belarus);
  • Prize-winners at an All-Union, All-Russian and International competitions - Anastasia Bardina, Nickolay Komolyatov, Anatoly Olshansky, the honoured artist of Russia Alexander Martinov (Moscow);
  • Composer Nikita Koshkin (Moscow);
  • Prize-winners at an All-Union competitions, the participants in International festivals - Evgueny Finkelstain, Vadim Chebanov, Ksenia Guitman, Alexander Rengach (Moscow);
  • Prize-winners at an All-Union, All-Russian competitions - Sergey Rudnev (Tula, Russia);
  • Prize-winners at an All-Union, All-Russian and International competitions, the soloist of the St. Petersburg chamber Philarmonic Society - Michael Radyukevich (St. Petersburg, Russia);
  • The participants in International festivals, the organizers of the Republican Festival of guitar - Arcady and Pavel Ivannikov (Donetsk, Ukraine);
  • Prize-winners at an All-Union, All-Russian and International competitions - Vadim Kuznetsov (Ryazan, Russia);
  • The participants in International festivals - Dimitris Regginos (Ciprus);
  • Prize-winners at an All-Union, All-Russian and International competitions - Vladimir Tervo (Noginsk, Russia);
  • A violinist - Maria Pfluger (Germany);
  • Prize-winners at an All-Union, All-Russian and International competitions - Michael Goldort (Novosibirsk, Russia);
  • Prize-winners at an All-Russian and International competitions - a classical ensemble of guitarists of Russia (quintet) led by Natalya Ivanova-Kramskaya (Moscow);
  • Prize-winners at an International competitions Yan Skrygan (Minsk),
  • Kurt Rodarmer (USA).