LORIS TJEKNAVORIAN (b.1937)
Piano Concerto (1961 rev 1974)
ARNO HARUTYUNI BABDZHANIAN (1921-1983)
Heroic Ballade (1949)
Armen Babakhanian (piano)
Armenian PO/Loris Tjeknavorian
rec Yerevan, March 1996.
ASV CD DCA 984
Various works of Tjeknavorian appeared on Unicorn LPs in the 1970s when that
label was busy cutting out for itself a specialist niche with Ole Schmidt's
Nielsen, Saul and David, Horenstein's Mahler 3 and 6, various Hovhaness
symphonies, Herrmann film and concert music and rare Barber and Kabalevsky.
Tjeknavorian has recorded as a conductor, widely, at one time with a complete
Borodin box on RCA (regrettably unissued on CD) and his Khachaturyan orchestral
cycle is well and truly established on ASV.
I dimly recall Tjeknavorian as a composer of a ballet Simorgh which
impressed favourably. There were other things but I have not tracked them
down. A descendant of the nineteenth century virtuoso keyboard 'eagles' the
piano concerto was written while a student in Vienna and premiered in Teheran
in 1962 and revised (and shortened) during the early 1970s.
The first movement's 'hammer storm' has a Bartokian vehemence contrasted
with a dewy summer nights quiescence of the type you find in the contemplative
episodes in Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez. The central movement
is cool and placid. The aggressive pesante finale has the scorching percussive
energy of the Khachaturyan piano concerto blended with elements of Bernstein
and Copland. There is a succulently reflective central episode before the
scorching hailstorm returns. Babakhanian turns in a glittering performance
bringing out the links with Totentanz and Prokofiev.
Ates Orga delivers his usual well written notes. Would that he would be more
active in this field. His technical descriptions of the music will leave
most of us cold but these are, anyway, kept to the minimum.
Babadzhanian is, with Mirzoyan and Arutunian, of the generation succeeding
Khachaturyan. His Heroic Ballade has a slow Hungarian twist in the tune (as
well as a touch of Sheherazade), Rachmaninovian tear-dampened heroism. and
Tchaikovskian dash. If this music was written in a mood of cultural compliance
this must be no obstacle to enjoyment. The big tune (2.26) is given the full
quota sentimental treatment. The work has a genuinely joyful 'strut'. It
ends almost visually in an analogue of Hollywood among the sand dunes with
Bolero-like convulsions (a touch or two of bombast, perhaps) and the gamin
levity of Colas Breugnon.
An Armenian nocturne is usually something to be reckoned with but Babadzhanian's
has less to do with mountains air than with exclusive hotel bars, a suggestion
of tango, Hollywood's dripping sheen and a large overlay of Mantovani's cascading
On the unblushingly populist strengths of the Ballade I want to hear more
Babadzhanian. Will ASV give us the wartime piano concerto, the 1949 violin
concerto and the 1960s cello concerto? Is this also the moment to renew my
plea for Ivan Dzerzhinsky's two piano concertos, Kapustin's five piano concertos
and Yuri Shaporin's symphony?
A recommendable disc for the sweeter tooth in the case of Babdzhanian and
for the more fastidious listener in the case of the very exciting Tjeknavorian
Great recording and fine performances.