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Richard YARDUMIAN (1917-1985)
Violin Concerto (1949 rev. 1960/1985) [22.01]
Symphony No. 2 Psalms (19478 rev 1964) [27.21]
Armenian Suite (arr. Ofer Ben-Amots) (1937/1954) [15.53]
Alexandr Bulov (violin)
Nanct Maultsby (mezzo)
Singapore SO/Lan Shui
rec Jan 2001, Victoria Concert Hall, Singapore DDD
BIS BIS-CD-1232 [66.25]


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Yardumian was virtually composer-in-residence to the Philadelphia Orchestra before the 'office' was recognised. He was a first generation American born of Armenian immigrants in the home town of Stokowski's orchestra. He grew up under the mantle of the Fabulous Philadelphians concert seasons - drinking in the sounds. Indeed all three works on this disc were premiered by Ormandy and the Philadelphia orchestra.

If you have not encountered this composer's music before you might wonder if he creates sounds like fellow Armenian-American Alan Hovhaness. He doesn't. Largely self-taught he evolved a musical language that drew on dodecaphony but blunted its barbs with Handelian grandeur, tender romance and angry majesty. Approximate and simplistic as ever I would locate his works somewhere in the triangle marked out by Alan Rawsthorne, William Walton and Alban Berg.

The Concerto is a prime example of his writing. It is an extremely fine work which, in terms of its durability and masterly qualities, I would place in the company of the violin concertos of Peter Racine Fricker, William Walton and Alan Rawsthorne (especially the first concerto - the one premiered by Theo Olof). The work demonstrates the tenderest of treatment for the violin - an intense but gentle suitor. It is rather as if (after the initial orchestral protest) the Alban Berg concerto continued in the same vein as its first ten bars. There are moments where this might almost be a concerto by Korngold but a Korngold who had lived on into the 1960s and had been seduced by Cheltenham symphonism. It is a lovely work, by the way.

As far as I can recall none of the present pieces are first recordings though some may be receiving their CD premiere. This is the case for the Violin Concerto. Phoenix issued the Second Symphony as conducted by Varujian Kojian alongside the Armenian Suite (Phoenix PHCD 112). There the singer was Lili Chookasian. Nancy Maultsby is just as well-gunned operatically and suffers from the same predilection for smearing consonants. This 27 minute Psalm symphony is sturdy, serious, preoccupied with praise and with beauty. It ends in audacious reticence. I am not at all sure one can properly call it a symphony. It is more like a series of scenas in the manner of Arthur Bliss's The Enchantress.

The seven movement Armenian Suite evolved gradually by a process of accretion rising from a bipartite piano suite in the 1930s to its current shape in 1954. The movements are short - mostly under three minutes. These use the the gentle manner of Rózsa (in the smaller orchestral works) with an earthy dash of Kodály and Rimsky. It represents stylish but fairly undemanding entertainment.

Everything is done with great skill and evident affection. The Violin Concerto makes this a disc that any concerto fancier needs to have in her or his collection.

Rob Barnett


The first symphony was recorded by the Bournemouth SO in the 1970s with Anshel Brusilow. There are other Yardumian works which currently languish in various archives. Piano Concerto (RCA LSC-3243 coupled with the Mennin Piano Concerto - the latter reissued on CRI); Piano sonata (EMI SLS-868/72 in a 5 LP set by John Ogdon also including Dutilleux’s piano sonata and piano music by George Lloyd); Preludes 1-2 (on Musical Heritage Society MHS-4110 LP c/w Beglarian For Children and pieces by Hovhaness and Tjeknavorian); Cantus Animae and Symphony No. 1 on EMI EMD-5527); Symphonies 1 and 2 plus Chorale Prelude on Columbia ML-6259 LP); Violin Concerto (Columbia ML-4991 LP plus Armenian Suite and Desolate City).

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