The newspaper "Da capo al fine" ("Igraem snachala") №09 (157) 09. 2017
The guitar techniques when it becomes the only and ultimate goal, a kind of sport, or when it is used as the means of mere illustration – all of these do not refer to Dmitry Nilov. His goal is art and the desire to get to the depth of the magic of music through the magic of the music instrument. It’s a cognitive process which is being revealed in his individual performing style and outstanding talent. He has deep understanding of form and the ability to express it with the help of limitless arsenal of touches. The power and the clearness of his guitar allow him to achieve amazing subtlety and volume of sound.
His road to recognition by professionals, as it often happens especially in art, was not an easy one. It demanded from Dmitry not only hard work, ambitions to excel, and talent but also the ability to make decisions that by many did and probably will be considered unpopular. But first things first.
Music entered his life very early in his childhood. His father is a professional musician and classical music has was always been heard in his home. When he was five he started learning to play the piano but at some point there appeared the desire to play the violin. When he was ten fate brought him a different set of strings as a present - those were guitar strings. “The present” has become a landmark and two years later he successfully performed in town and regional children’s music competitions.
After finishing children’s music school (class of S.A. Soltan) and the music college in his home town of Smolensk (class of V.F. Pavluchenkov) Dmitry Nilov became a student at the Gnesins’ State Academy of Music in Moscow (class of Professor Alexander Frauchi). During his studies at the Academy he became twice the laureate of the “Printemps de la guitare” contest, held under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Fabiola (Valkur, Belgium), one of the world’s most prestigious guitar contests, included into the list of WFIMC (The World Federation of International Music Competitions, Charleroi). Dmitry got excellent reviews from musicians and the press who pointed out a no common music gift of the youngest finalist from Russia. It seemed quite natural and promising to continue participating in competitions but in 2003 when he was 24 years old the musician forsook this path in favor of concert performing career.
Later in one of his interviews he would say that the very idea of competing in music was rather bewildering for him. At the end of the day music is not sport and the objectivity of the procedures at this kind of events is rather relative. But the real reason why he stopped taking part in competitions was not exactly that one. Dmitry wanted to play beyond the bounds of possibility utilizing the compass of the instrument to the fullest. No other examples of this kind of concert performing have occurred in history before.
In the beginning of 1990s a new style of guitar playing was gaining popularity. It differed significantly from the classic technique used by Francisco Tarrega, Emilio Pujol, Miguel Llobet, Andres Segovia, and John Williams - almost all of the outstanding guitarists of the 19-20th centuries. The different hand position was being taken as a game changer which would lead to a revolutionary breakthrough and a new aesthetics of guitar sound. Dmitry Nilov who considers academism and adhering to classic performing traditions a corner stone in his work did not accept the new trends. He not only played with the classic hand position, it was the very foundation of his striving to improve the technique and his music performance. At stake was, on one hand, the musician’s preference of the classic hand position and the concert sound of the instrument it correlated with, and on the other, the prospects of participating in international contests. It was becoming quite obvious that the sound aesthetics based
on the “modern” hand position was getting more and more favor.
It is fair to say, however, that Dmitry tried a new style of hand position, but gave it up, because he understood that it automatically narrowed the scope of dynamism and as a consequence, the phrasing. It was not acceptable for the guitarist whose interests lied in the music where the dynamism played a significant role. As a result, he found himself in almost absolute isolation, since today it is practically impossible to see guitarists on a concert stage playing with a classic hand position. Among the arguments against it is that the classic technique is outdated and may even have harmful effect on health. Here is how Dmitry Nilov comments on the situation:
“I haven’t been able to find any explanation for it. The so called outdated technique is based on a muscle freedom and has obvious benefits over the modern one. I choose the classic hand position because I can find more possibilities in it from the point of view of dynamics, articulation, and the range of expression. But in the early 2000s I had some doubts, too, as I was trying to understand if I should make changes in my playing technique. There were a lot of doubts but fortunately, I was lucky to meet an outstanding Russian guitar master Timofey Tkatch. We had similar points of view on the classic guitar and the guitar performance in general. We not only looked in the same direction we were constantly looking for the truth.
I don't intentionally say that Timofey Tkatch is a guitar master, since he is a Luthier. It means not only making guitars, but other string intruments also, e.g. violins and violas. To meet Timofey was like a breath of fresh air. I got acquanted with many professional musicians in this workshop, like a wonderful violinist Alexey Koshvanets, today - the professor of the Moscow Conservatory and the Gnessin Russian Academy of Music. We talked very often, exchanged our ideas about music, instruments, performers, methodological questions, concert activity. It was a very serious academy for me."
In spring of 2003 Dmitry Nilov’s met with Pepe Romero who was in Russia on tour. This meeting has become a turning point. It was thanks to a two-day interpersonal communication, sharing opinions and experiences and in the end the maestro’s approval of Dmitry’s performing preferences that the latter had made his choice. And the choice was in favor of concerts! They were meant to become a proof of and justification for his preferences in performing techniques and sound aesthetics.
The very first appearance of Dmiry Nilov on concert stages attracted attention of both the public and the professionals from Russian philharmonic societies. By the end of the 2000-s Dmitry Nilov’s performing style had been being shaped revealing his individuality with each new concert program. A unique combination of sensuality and intellect, power and range of dynamism with technical and emotional subtlety lie at the core of his individual style. And as a result a unique individual range of expression of his guitar on stage had emerged. The appreciation of professionals and grateful commentaries from the public have proved that he had won the main contest, the one he had been going through during many years – the test by the stage.
At present time Dmitry Nilov is focusing on professional activities on the web. The musician gives tutorials and consultations on guitar techniques regardless of the preference in hand position, that is, whether one plays with the help of nails or without. His ultimate goal is to provide support for those who want to improve their performing level and broaden the knowledge of theory. On the YouTube channel “Classics of Sound DN” he posts tutorials on classic guitar playing with commentaries and instructions. The musician demonstrates how one can get a balanced sound and muscle freedom, the limitless capabilities of touch and even and dynamic tremolo – all of the components that form a performing style and individual sound palette. Dmitry Nilov considers it's necessary to prove his point of view of the importance of classic guitar performing experience application which was dominant in 19-20th centuries. He says:
“When I am asked to give a short formula of what is the most important thing in my approach to music I say without a hint of a doubt - it is academism. For me academism is the principle of personal discipline and exactingness and adherence to classic traditions. In my work on music I have always been and will always be leaning on the performing art experience the history of which is linked to solving more challenging technical tasks. In playing guitar music I have always been leaning on the various performing practices that have existed in its history and which were aimed at conquering complex and challenging techniques. Playing guitar has some serious distinguishing peculiarity. The artistic outcome depends highly on physical and physiological capacity of a musician, such as, muscle and joints flexibility, fingers and wrists independence, sensitivity of finger cushions, nails length, shape, and quality. At the same time, a guitarist may experience psychological pressure which is rather significant, to say the least. For this very reason self-discipline and perfectionism at beginning stages play a definitive role in the making of modern musicians who strive to meet the standards of academic style and aspire to improve their skills.
...If we view the today’s situation not as a polemic among the guitarists but as a question of academic performing art it could be beneficial to do both, to share points of view on guitar techniques at conferences and to broadly discuss them including in mass media.
The Tchaikovsky Concert Hall (Moscow), 2005
In the workshop of Timofey Tkatch
The Moscow Conservatory. 2003. T.Tkatch, P. Romero, D. Nilov
In his own home studio, 2017