Yardumian was virtually composer-in-residence to the
Philadelphia Orchestra before the 'office' was recognised. He was a
first generation American born of Armenian immigrants in the home town
of Stokowski's orchestra. He grew up under the mantle of the Fabulous
Philadelphians concert seasons - drinking in the sounds. Indeed all
three works on this disc were premiered by Ormandy and the Philadelphia
If you have not encountered this composer's music before
you might wonder if he creates sounds like fellow Armenian-American
Alan Hovhaness. He doesn't. Largely self-taught he evolved a musical
language that drew on dodecaphony but blunted its barbs with Handelian
grandeur, tender romance and angry majesty. Approximate and simplistic
as ever I would locate his works somewhere in the triangle marked out
by Alan Rawsthorne, William Walton and Alban Berg.
The Concerto is a prime example of his writing. It
is an extremely fine work which, in terms of its durability and masterly
qualities, I would place in the company of the violin concertos of Peter
Racine Fricker, William Walton and Alan Rawsthorne (especially the first
concerto - the one premiered by Theo Olof). The work demonstrates the
tenderest of treatment for the violin - an intense but gentle suitor.
It is rather as if (after the initial orchestral protest) the Alban
Berg concerto continued in the same vein as its first ten bars. There
are moments where this might almost be a concerto by Korngold but a
Korngold who had lived on into the 1960s and had been seduced by Cheltenham
symphonism. It is a lovely work, by the way.
As far as I can recall none of the present pieces are
first recordings though some may be receiving their CD premiere. This
is the case for the Violin Concerto. Phoenix issued the Second Symphony
as conducted by Varujian Kojian alongside the Armenian Suite (Phoenix
PHCD 112). There the singer was Lili Chookasian. Nancy Maultsby is just
as well-gunned operatically and suffers from the same predilection for
smearing consonants. This 27 minute Psalm symphony is sturdy, serious,
preoccupied with praise and with beauty. It ends in audacious reticence.
I am not at all sure one can properly call it a symphony. It is more
like a series of scenas in the manner of Arthur Bliss's The Enchantress.
The seven movement Armenian Suite evolved gradually
by a process of accretion rising from a bipartite piano suite in the
1930s to its current shape in 1954. The movements are short - mostly
under three minutes. These use the the gentle manner of Rózsa
(in the smaller orchestral works) with an earthy dash of Kodály
and Rimsky. It represents stylish but fairly undemanding entertainment.
Everything is done with great skill and evident affection.
The Violin Concerto makes this a disc that any concerto fancier needs
to have in her or his collection.
YARDUMIAN ON DISC (MOSTLY VINYL)
The first symphony was recorded by the Bournemouth
SO in the 1970s with Anshel Brusilow. There are other Yardumian works
which currently languish in various archives. Piano Concerto (RCA LSC-3243
coupled with the Mennin Piano Concerto - the latter reissued on CRI);
Piano sonata (EMI SLS-868/72 in a 5 LP set by John Ogdon also including
Dutilleux’s piano sonata and piano music by George Lloyd); Preludes
1-2 (on Musical Heritage Society MHS-4110 LP c/w Beglarian For Children
and pieces by Hovhaness and Tjeknavorian); Cantus Animae and Symphony
No. 1 on EMI EMD-5527); Symphonies 1 and 2 plus Chorale Prelude on Columbia
ML-6259 LP); Violin Concerto (Columbia ML-4991 LP plus Armenian Suite
and Desolate City).