Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

Ode to Joy - The Spring Sun Rises (1956)
Three Concert Arias (1946)
Ballad of the Motherland (1961)
Poem [aka Poem to Stalin or Ode to Stalin] (1938 rev 1961)
March of Zangezur (1938)
Hasmik Hatsagortsian (sop)
Vardouhi Khachatrian (mezzo)
Mourad Amirkhanian (bass)
Armenian Philharmonic Chorus
Armenian PO/Loris Tjeknavorian
rec 19/20 July 1999, Yerevan
ASV CD DCA 1087  [61.56]

Without drawing attention to itself ASV, since 1992, have quietly built a Khachaturian Edition with Tjeknavorian and the Armenian Phil. The core discs in this series are the three symphonies. Two CDs, one of film music and the other including the Lenin Ode should not be overlooked.

To date ASV have overlooked or deliberately steered around the violin concerto (already well served), the cello concerto and the three concert rhapsodies. I hope that they will come to them (preferably with Armenian soloists). The rhapsodies would make a splendid and generous sequence for a single disc.

The orchestra is not the most refined of ensembles but its vivid colours and rhythmic acuity suit this music to a tee.

The Ode to Joy (to words by Smirnov) is grandiloquent. It has no pretensions to profundity: more of an enthusiastic paean over a quick pulsing figure for the strings. It leans and occasionally dives headlong into neon-lit bombast. It is effective and rabble-rousing with a desperately over the top peroration. Vardouhi Khachatrian holds nothing back.

The operatic trilogy of Concert Arias have been recorded before (Citadel) but the ASV has the edge in terms of a more open acoustic and a less hectoring atmosphere. Poem (If I were a scarlet coral) mixes Gershwin's Summertime and Tosca. The central Legend has fewer of the composer's hallmarks but remains inventive. The final Dithyramb returns to the world of the first song - a gentle susurration - a summer wind. These all suggest 'escapees' from an opera that Khachaturian never got round to writing. If Rimsky's operas or Borodin's Prince Igor are for you then you will want to have these works. The poems are by Turmanian and Peshoktashian. The booklet prints the English translation (but not the Russian transliteration) of the arias.

Mourad Amirkhanian's bass voice is cavernous but somehow under-powered - grey rather than obsidian black - in the Ballad of the Motherland. The work does not strike home. It has the ring of cardboard.

The March is a vainglorious make-weight in the composer's super-gleeful mode familiar from the film music disc. It in fact comes from his third (of 18) film score.

The Poem is a big piece playing continuously for about twenty minutes. The Stalin association has been purged from the title as have all references to Stalin in the sung text. In fact when revised in 1961 new lyrics were provided for the choral finale by Lev Ovshamin. It is a very decent piece of second tier Khachaturian with some commanding brass writing (11.23) and even a motoric May-Day 'rumba' (12.10). The finale sounds rather like a cross between William Mathias's This Worlde's Joie and Rozsa's music for El Cid.

Robert Matthew-Walker's notes have been one of the consistent strengths of this series. It is however regrettable that the texts and translations of the other works on this disc are not provided. Why so coy?

Rob Barnett

Not top drawer Khachaturian but brightly and eagerly performed.

Other discs in the series

ARAM KHACHATURYAN (1903-1978) 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]

Aram KHACHATURYAN (1903-1978) Film Music Pepo (1934) Undying Flame (1956) Secret Mission (1950) Admiral Ushakov (1953) Prisoner 217 (1945) Armenian PO/Loris Tjeknavorian rec 22-23 Oct 1995, Yerevan, Armenia ASV CD DCA 966 [66.35]

Reviews from previous months

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