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Pesniary (Pesnyary)

Prog Folk

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Pesniary (Pesnyary) Gusliar album cover
4.38 | 49 ratings | 2 reviews | 45% 5 stars

Essential: a masterpiece of
progressive rock music

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Studio Album, released in 1979

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Gusliar (36:42)

Total Time: 36:42

Line-up / Musicians

- Vladimir Mulyavin / guitars, lead vocals, arranger & leader
- Anatoliy Kasheparov / lead vocals

- Valeriy Dayneko / viola, vocals
- Leonid Bortkevich / vocals
- Ljudmila Isupova / vocals
- Vladimir Tkachenko / guitar, violin, backing vocals
- Igor Palivoda / keyboards
- Vladimir Nikolaev / keyboards, trombone, sax, backing vocals
- Vladislav Misevich / sax, flute, vocals
- Oktaj Ajvazov / trombone
- Evgeny Pozdyshev / trumpet
- Cheslav Poplavsky / violin, backing vocals
- Leonid Tyshko / bass, backing vocals
- Aleksander Demeshko / drums, backing vocals
- Mark Shmelkin / drums, percussion

Releases information

Sub-titled A poem-legend to the Yanka Kupala's poem "Barrow" (1910); Music by Igor Luchenok

Recording engineer: Rafik Ragimov
Artwork: N. Stas

LP Melodiya - 33C 60-12727-28 (1979, USSR)

CD Boheme Music - CDBMR 009170 (2000, Russia)

Digital album Melodiya - MEL CO 0638 (2020, Russia, divided to 12 tracks, available via Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube Music) etc

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to NotAProghead for the last updates
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PESNIARY (PESNYARY) Gusliar ratings distribution

(49 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(45%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(45%)
Good, but non-essential (4%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

PESNIARY (PESNYARY) Gusliar reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Prog-jester
4 stars A Classical record from Soviet times. Actually it wasn't regarded as PROG in that times - it was kinda Rock-Opera. GUSLIAR has elements of Symphonic Prog, strong and obvious ethnic flavour, some jazzy arrangements and even classical-like bits. This is a Legend told by the wonderful voices of the Belarus band PESNYARY. If you're searching for something related to URIAH HEEP's choir - try this one; they sing more softly in sophisticated Folkish manner, but it is the same way beautiful and stunning. Hardly comparable (as almost everything from Russian/Soviet Prog) to anything done before, GUSLIAR is a Must for every Prog Collector, and 4 stars I give it is my personal impression - amazing, but not completely my kind of music.
Review by siLLy puPPy
5 stars PESNIARY ( Песняры ), Russian for "Singers" was one of the most popular Soviet folk bands emerging from Minsk, Belarus in 1969 albeit starting off as Liavony (Лявоны). Initiated by the genius composer Vladimir Mulyavin, the band changed its name in 1970 to participate in a Soviet music competition with all different kinds of artists and successfully placed second. A rotating ensemble of various musicians, Mulyavin remained the only consistent member until his death in a car crash in 2003 which then found the band splintering into myriad variations adopting the original band's basic theme and mission.

Staring off as an oddball mix of traditional Belarusian folk music, Soviet Estrada, psychedelic pop and 60s beat music, the band eventually gravitated to the more challenging composition techniques heard in progressive rock with the third album however by the time PESNIARY arrived at its fifth album Гусляр (Guslar which refers to the oldest East Slavic multi-string plucked instrument and also the person who plays it), the band had achieved its highest musical sophistication by releasing a single track rock opera that was written by composer Igor Luchenok and Vladimir Mulyavin and based on the poem "Kurgan" by Yanka Kupala, the classic writer of Belarusian literature.

Like all operas this one narrates the tale of the fate of a guslar player who was invited to a wedding where a power hungry prince attempts to persuade him into performing his instrument. The guslar refuses stating that he sides with the population whom the prince oppresses and in the process the guslar is ordered to be executed (short story obviously). The tale was set to a cantata in 1960 for a mixed choir, soloists and symphonic orchestra and by 1976 Mulyavin was interested in setting the opera to rock music and nurtured it into musical reality for the next few years. In the meantime PESNIARY was one of the very few Soviet musical ensembles to tour outside of the USSR having found a successful tour of the American South in 1976.

While Гусляр (Guslar) was not considered progressive rock per se by the Soviet music authority, the influences of the Italian symphonic prog scene as well as quirky outbursts in the vein of Frank Zappa are evident throughout. All of this despite its lofty ambition was kept on the leash as a single album's worth of music at less than 37 minutes of playing time. The album was a smashing success with many claiming that it and band in general were the absolute creative peak in all of Belarusian rock and in many ways owes a lot to the dynamics played out in ambitious rock operas such as "Jesus Christ Superstar" only Гусляр (Guslar) was perfectly tailored to the Slavic audiences with rich Belarusian folk melodies fortifying lofty prog rock workouts all accompanied by a choral presence and familiar narrative.

The music remains exciting and dynamic throughout its entire playing time and really does feel like the perfect hybrid between classical composition, progressive rock excesses and traditional folk melodies. The album is quite ambitious and remains a popular relic from the Soviet era in the world of progressive rock stalwarts seeking treasures from behind the former Iron Curtain. Unlike many Western rock operas, this one delivers the perfect mix of various ingredients and never relies too heavily on the rock aspects although they are fully implemented when the mood calls for it. The seamless transition between musical styles while leaving the album feel like a cohesive whole was an amazing undertaking and it's obvious why this album is considered the peak of Belarusian music magic in many ways. It's also mercifully short for an opera and keeps your attention for the entire run. A true Soviet masterpiece.

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