MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2023
Approaching 60,000 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing



Download: Classicsonline

Aram Il’yich KHACHATURIAN (1903-1978)
Cello Concerto in E minor [32:24]
Concerto-Rhapsody for Cello and Orchestra [24:22]
Dmitry Yablonsky (cello)
Russian Philharmonia/Maxim Fedotov
rec. 20-25 October, 2007, Studio 5, Russian State TV and Radio Company KULTURA, Moscow, Russia
Experience Classicsonline

Exotic rhythms, exuberant and unmistakably Georgian folk melodies, woodwind solos filled with longing, passionate writing for the primary soloist, and an immediately appealing orchestral palette – lovers of Khachaturian’s classic Violin Concerto will recognize in his Cello Concerto all the elements that make this composer a 20th century favorite.

The work for cello and orchestra is not as well-known as its counterpart, but that is an injustice which this new recording attempts to counteract. Dmitry Yablonsky is the excellent soloist, and his account makes it clear that a potential audience favorite has been withheld from the standard repertoire for too long. 

Khachaturian no longer needs introduction to Western audiences. He is known from his ballets Gayaneh and Spartacus, and from his Violin Concerto, as a composer who pleases both the crowds and the critics. The Violin Concerto was premiered by legendary violinist David Oistrakh, and has been a staple of concert programs and new CDs ever since. It has been recorded by the likes of Leonid Kogan, Itzhak Perlman, Henryk Szeryng, Ruggiero Ricci and, more recently, Julia Fischer. The Cello Concerto has not received anything like that level of advocacy. By my count, this is just the seventh major recording of the stereo era. The work’s relative obscurity may have something to do with its gloomier overall atmosphere, its more troubled emotional state, and, worst of all, the harsh denunciations leveled at it by Soviet authorities after its premiere in 1946. Let us hope that this fantastic recording will inspire its return to the mainstream. 

The Cello Concerto opens with an orchestral introduction of only about a minute’s duration. It is heavy with foreboding and tapers off into one of the many moody, mysterious clarinet solos which punctuate the first movement. Then the cello enters and announces the memorable first theme. After that the movement is off to the races: brilliant color, skilful thematic development, and high drama mix in the same folksy idiom which characterizes so much of this composer’s music. A delicious clarinet solo prepares the way for the second subject, and there is a sudden reminiscence of the Dies irae theme by the orchestra as the cellist enters, but the Catholic hymn is warded off before it can really settle in. The development reaches its peak with a deliciously colorful dance in the seventh minute, before the cellist’s cadenza skillfully combines the movement’s dueling moods of exuberance and introspection. 

The second movement, beginning with an eerie flute solo, is a dramatic, stern creation in which we see only glimmers of the consoling ‘big tune’. One might compare it to a view of a harsh landscape with a mere hint of lush green far in the distance. The lyrical heart of this movement is evasive and fleeting. 

The finale brings the expected fireworks, but it also presents the main structural flaw: the energy level in the second half of the finale consistently decreases until the lightning-fast coda shocks the music out of its slumber. Perhaps this is partially the responsibility of the performers, but I doubt it. Dmitry Yablonsky’s cello playing is consistently riveting; his regular work as a conductor on Naxos has concealed the fact that he is a very fine cellist indeed. What’s more, the Russian Philharmonia plays superbly throughout. The orchestra itself is somewhat of an enigma — it was previously known as the TV 6 Orchestra and does not appear to give public concerts — but the level of the playing here is impressive. As mentioned, the first-desk wind players are especially praiseworthy. And, even when the final coda seems to come too soon, it is a mark of Khachaturian’s skill that we are left hungering for more rather than wishing there had been less. 

Luckily there is more. The Concerto-Rhapsody for Cello and Orchestra is a twenty-four minute work in a single movement. It makes even greater demands on Yablonsky than the longer concerto. Within a minute we are launched into an extremely long and grueling solo cadenza, in which the cellist presents all the themes we will soon be hearing amid much fiercely difficult passage-work. The Concerto-Rhapsody is, perhaps, more interesting on first listen, because its musical idiom is largely more advanced and more forbidding than a typical Khachaturian work. Oddly, on repeated hearings it is the simpler, more tuneful concerto which is more rewarding. The Concerto-Rhapsody, which occasionally quotes the Dies irae idea from the earlier work, simply does not have enough thematic material to justify its twenty-four minutes. There is a frankly dull and repetitive stretch in the development passage, which is a pity because the titanic cadenza had commanded our attention so powerfully. Near the end Khachaturian pitches in a few spectacular moments for the percussion and brass which recall the peasant dances from Gayaneh, but this comes after an awful lot of dithering over a very small number of interesting musical ideas. By contrast, the Concerto is both a potential crowd-pleaser and a satisfying, intelligent piece. 

This recording makes me wonder just why the Cello Concerto isn’t a smash hit in concert halls across the world right now. It’s instantly appealing, emotionally complex, fantastically orchestrated, virtuosic, and filled with an abundance of good tunes. At the very least, one would expect more recordings to be available, but there is almost no major competition for this Yablonsky performance. A Chandos disc featuring Raphael Wallfisch puts the Concerto in a more elegiac light and features very polished, expressive cello playing, though the acoustic is not always flattering to the cello itself and the London Philharmonic winds are not as characterful as their Russian counterparts. Wallfisch has a definite edge on Yablonsky in the expressive slow movement, but Yablonsky takes extra trouble to make the repeated-note theme in the finale genuinely interesting and varied, where Wallfisch simply runs the notes together. The coupling on the Chandos disc is the Violin Concerto, which most Khachaturian fans will likely already have. 

I have not heard the Regis recording with cellist Marina Tarasova, but the disappointed reviews on this site by Michael Cookson and Jonathan Woolf suggest that that performance, a full four minutes slower than Yablonsky’s, is not a good advocate of the piece. A Philips CD starring Christine Walevska and conductor Eliahu Inbal is long out of print. 

This new recording featuring Dmitry Yablonsky is, then, the finest available performance of the Khachaturian Cello Concerto, and as such merits the strongest possible recommendation. If the Concerto-Rhapsody does not always reach the same level of inspiration, Yablonsky’s playing is still breathtaking. These are recordings which any fan of Khachaturian would delight to have, and which should commend a richly enjoyable but long-forgotten concerto to a much wider audience. Rich, clear sound completes the package. 

As a part of the Naxos Digital imprint, this album is currently only available for download at the website Classicsonline, where it sells for rather less than the price of a physical compact disc. Naxos informs me that they plan a CD release of these recordings for early 2010.

Brian Reinhart



Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Past and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.