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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Lermontov Suite (1944)
Russian Fantasy (1944)
Ode in Memory of Lenin (1948)
Greeting Overture (1958)
Festive Poem (1950)
Armenian PO/Loris Tjeknavorian
rec 28 Oct - 2 Nov 1994, Yerevan, Armenia
ASV CD DCA 966 [66.06]
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Tjeknavorian's (and ASV's) devotion to Khachaturyan is to be admired. This series is best seen as foreshadowing and shadowing the work done on behalf of Gliere by Downes and Chandos. It is similarly exhaustive and shows some valour when you consider how apt such projects are to knee-jerk attack because of the music's association with Soviet realism.

The Lermontov Suite (in four movements) has entwined in its music an almost cataclysmic sadness but along the way we encounter a Tchaikovskian mazurka and valse. In the finale the composer reaches for his accustomed facility in Rimskian celebration. Think in terms of the Russian Easter Festival Overture and Capriccio Espagnol. The Russian Fantasy continues the Rimskian accent coloured with moments indebted to the great waltz from Tchaikovsky's Fifth. The Ode in Memory of Lenin (drawing on the film music for the life of Lenin) is overhung with black mists and funereal obsequies. It is oppressive with a sense of national mourning; unbridled in its clamour and unembarrassed by the uninhibited use of cymbals.

The Greeting Overture is brash and, as we know, Khachaturyan is good at brash but this time I have to concede that the music is noisily vapid, re-circulating ideas you are likely to associate with Rozsa's El Cid and Shostakovich 5. Festive Poem (20 mins) can be taken as his Fourth Symphony in all but name. Remember that the much-reviled (by Soviet authorities and, all too readily, by Western commentators) Symphony No. 3 is called 'symphony-poem'. It produces some jollity perhaps reminiscent of the military review music in Prokofiev's War and Peace, and of Mendelssohn's Italian and of Rossini overtures. The wily composer could (and did) still drum up a liquidly lapping theme or two as well as a certain jauntiness and some broadly strutting trumpet work (13.50) in Iberian style.

Good informative notes by Robert Matthew-Walker. Thankfully they are not prone to hagiography.

The symphonies in this series are well worth trying out before this collection but if they leave you wanting more you know where to come.


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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