a name that even the most musically
educated of readers might find unfamiliar.
Alexi Matchavariani was a Georgian,
who, as can be seen by his dates, spent
most of his life under Soviet rule.
He received the usual collection of
grandiloquently titled Soviet awards,
including the People’s Artist of the
USSR and the USSR State Prize. Perhaps
most significantly, he was one of the
lesser composers along with Shostakovich,
Prokofiev and Khachaturian to be accused
of "formalism" in 1948.
seven symphonies, concertos for piano,
cello and violin, of course, , as well
as ballet scores, and much chamber music.
Some of this was recorded by Melodiya
in the LP era (in some instances such
as this one, conducted by his son Vakhtang),
and this is where the current recording
comes from, offered free of charge as
an mp3 download. There are other recordings
also available in the same way, including
three of the symphonies, the ballet
"Othello" and two string quartets.
Menuhin is quoted as describing the
concerto as "beautiful – it contains
all the passion, the poetry and deep
spirituality … added to the lyrical
quality of the music there is a robust
intellectual approach – all in all,
a most memorable piece which any violinist
would have great pleasure in interpreting".
It was performed by David Oistrakh in
the 1950s and was recorded outside the
USSR on the Columbia label, though I
cannot find who the soloist was.
[LP Westminster XWN 18535: USSR State
Radio Orchestra, O. Dmitriade (cond),
M. Vaiman (violin) according to Onno
van Rijen - Len]
the date of composition, this is not
a neo-Romantic work, but one firmly
of the Romantic era. In fact, you might
imagine it to be the violin concerto
that Rachmaninov never wrote. It is
cast in the traditional Romantic three-movement
format of Brahms and Tchaikovsky: the
first, the longest, where the composer
shows his skill in developing themes,
the second, a gorgeous adagio, and the
finale, a virtuoso crowd pleaser.
first movement (I can find no tempo
indications) features development of
two very contrasting themes: the first,
pulsating and vibrant and the second,
meltingly lyrical. The slow movement
has a more important role for the orchestra,
and my first thought was "1930s
filmscore" and brought to mind
the Korngold concerto. The third movement
has elements in the orchestra reminiscent
of Shostakovich’s first piano concerto,
but is dominated by the violin fireworks,
which it is easy to imagine may be based
on Georgian folk music.
soloist is a fellow Georgian, well credentialed
according to her website
with two first places in international
competitions in the 1960s and 70s. She
is up to the technical demands of the
outer movements, though the violin sounds
a little harsh at times, for example,
the furioso end (my tempo indication)
to the finale. She has what I would
call an older style of playing, dating
back to the post-war period. This is
particularly obvious in the slow sections
of the first movement and in the slow
concerto is not going to supplant the
Tchaikovsky in your affections, but
it is at least as good, and in my opinion
better, than the Khachaturian with which
it is roughly contemporary. Surely Naxos,
as it delves further into the obscure,
could put this on its "to do"
list. I note that there is a brand new
Naxos release – 8.570324 – featuring
20th century works from the
Caucasus region, which includes Georgia;
I will be giving it a listen.
sound quality is hardly exceptional,
given the source, but at 192 kbps bitrate,
it isn’t too bad for mp3, and at the
price (!) you can hardly complain.
entertaining, stirringly romantic and
totally deserving of a new recording.
three files (one for each movement –
a total of just over 40 Mb) are downloaded
from another site – megaupload.com –
which I believe to be benign, and free
to use, as long as you only attempt
to download one movement at a time,
and are prepared to wait for 45 seconds
before download starts.