'Three Russian Songs' was composed as a gift for a Russian friend and a tribute to Russian lyricism, which is well represented in the folk song melodies chosen for the piece. The first is a typically melancholy lament for an unhappy relationship, and the second a "troika" song in which the singer urges his horses forward ever faster, hoping to see his true love. The third song admirably demonstrates the pervasive beauty of Russian melody - it is, perhaps unbelievably, a broadly comic song in which a drunkard begs his homeward road to lie still and let him walk safely.
I came across Rod Moulds' original piano version of 'Three Russian Songs' on SibeliusMusic, and was immediately inspired by these rather sad but beautiful love songs. The melodic phrases just seem to unfold organically and I especially loved the way the composer used rhythmic urgency and increasingly rich harmony to introduce passion. It's full of contrast, and I found its emotional and musical momentum irresistible.
I was so impressed that I asked the composer's permission to arrange it for saxophone quartet. I felt the elegant, melodic phrases would sound particularly effective played on the sax, given its expressive, vocal-like qualities. Happily he agreed and I hope that this arrangement gives Rod Moulds' piece the additional exposure it deserves. The arrangement was premiered by the Paragon Saxophone Quartet in November 2001, and I feel that the whole project has been a very encouraging example of the benefits SibeliusMusic can generate when composers co-operate.