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Aram KHACHATURIAN (1903-1978)
Violin Concerto in D minor (1940) [35:35]
Sergei Taneyev (1856-1915)
Suite de Concert op. 28 (1908-09) [43:38]
David Oistrakh (violin)
Philharmonia Orchestra/Aram Khachaturian (Khachaturian); Nicolai Malko (Taneyev)
rec. Kingsway Hall, London, 26-27 November 1954 (Khachaturian); Studio No. 1, Abbey Road, London, 24-25 February 10950 (Taneyev). ADD
EMI CLASSICS GREAT RECORDINGS OF THE CENTURY 3 61570 2 [78:22] 

 

 

The great Raymond Chandler once had his careworn knight errant Philip Marlowe describe Khachaturian as "imitating a tractor factory. He called it a violin concerto. I call it a broken fan belt." Anyone care to remind me which of the novels that came from. Given that I regard Chandler very highly I wish I could agree with Marlowe. As it is I think it is one of Marlowe’s less pungent and miscalculated witticisms – clever-ish but off the mark. At the time – mid-1940s wartime USA the concerto was playing with every major and minor state orchestra. The USA (stars and stripes) and USSR (stars and hammers and sickles) were for a few years locked in alliance and everything seemed possible.

The Khachaturian is an extremely attractive piece which taps into the Armenian’s usual exotically sinuous folk-roots in the Andante sostenuto. The outer movements are driven along on a blast of rhythmic energy and in the finale a hiccupping Russian dance – nothing ethnic about this dance.

This version which majors on the voluptuous was one of three works recorded at the Kingsway Hall in 1954 by the composer with the Philharmonia. The others were excerpts from Gayaneh and the Masquerade Suite. You can hear all of them if you can track down the 1993 Khachaturian instalment in the EMI Composer in Person series on CDC 555035.

This is a satisfying performance and far from being unvirtuosic but there are more hothouse performances including a fierily excellent one from Leonid Kogan on Russian Revelation if you can find it. 

The Reger-expansive suite by Taneyev was written for Leopold Auer. It is a classic performance that has been repeatedly reissued so you may have it in other couplings. I first came across it on LP But a little more recently as part of EMI’s mid-1990s Matrix series in which it formed volume 20 (EMI 5 65419 2) with the Rostropovich/Sargent Miaskovsky Cello concerto. The Suite makes for a discursive and pleasing ramble without being pungently Russian in feeling. Malko, whose superb recordings of the first and last Prokofiev symphonies should be better known, is a sure and temperamental orchestral guide. The orchestra is very nicely placed in relation to the soloist. This registers strongly in the Keel Row-reminiscent Tarantella finale in which the ripely singing solo counterpoints deliciously with the Massenet-style percussion.

The well pitched and interesting liner-notes are by Tully Potter. These are supplemented with some a couple of session photos and the cover sports a reproduction of the front sleeve of the first LP issue of the Khachaturian.

This disc offers a Khachaturian Violin Concerto not short of fireworks but with the emphasis on the voluptuous and the languid and a classic version of the rare Taneyev Suite. 

Rob Barnett 

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