These are works and
possibly composers you may never have
heard of before. The disc is however
fully worth the labour entailed in tracking
down a supplier.
You might well remember
the composer-conductor Loris Tjeknavorian.
His recordings of his own music and
of Russian exotica as well as the music
of his homeland are ASV-Sanctuary staples.
His Khachaturian is to the manner born;
he is not afraid of colour - even gaudy
colour when called for. Beyond the ASV
discs you may recall a previous and
much missed generation of RCA (now BMG)
recordings. Very few of these have reappeared
but outstanding from the late 1970s
into the 1980s were LPs of the complete
orchestral works of Borodin, symphonies
1, 2, 4 and 5 of Sibelius, the last
three numbered symphonies of Tchaikovsky
and Khachaturyan’s Gayaneh (a pity he
never got around to a truly complete
Spartacus), Unicorn issued two LPs -
one of his ballet Simorgh using
original Iranian folk instruments; the
other of his First Symphony.
Here Tjeknavorian on
his own label provides a stimulating
and superbly executed and recorded collection
of unfamiliar music for string orchestra.
Both Haroutunian and
Mirzoyan are from the generation prior
to Tjeknavorian. Haroutunian’s Sinfonietta
is clear-eyed, romantic and nationalistic.
When playful the music parallels Tippett
and Britten in its quick step busily
carefree ebullience. When pensive it
leans on an extremely attractive crooning
sadness - a touch of Prokofiev here.
The intermezzo pizzicato is fanciful
with yearning soulful melody counterpointing
pizzicato. Mirzoyan was head
of the Union of Armenian Composers 1956-1994.
He writes in sustained melodic lines
and his music carries the impress of
long-breathed musical thought. Variation
3 is breathlessly engorged with activity
while the Fourth is touched with the
masterly dreaminess of Khachaturian
although Mirzoyan’s music is deeper
than that of his compatriot. The finale
is strongly flavoured and ruthlessly
active subsiding into a grave Purcell-like
climax rising in majestic languor. The
quartet is played in Tjeknavorian’s
arrangement for chamber string orchestra.
seven movement serenade Lake Van
Suite is hoarse, speedy, rhapsodic,
dynamic and acidic. Along the way we
meet a nostalgic waltz and lyric song.
There is also a sentimental serenade
rather like the Finzi Introit.
In all of these pieces solo lines float
free. At times the writing is reminiscent
of a cross between Holst’s St Paul Suite
and a Hovhaness symphony. Full hearted
and imaginative Tjeknavorian also reaches
grasps the delirium of excitement also
heard in Tippett’s Concerto for Double
String orchestra. The disc ends with
Tjeknavorian’s Erebouni which
was written for the 2750th anniversary
of the city of Erebouni-Yerevan. The
music is based on a melody by Edgar
Hovhanessian. The movements are Erebouni
and the destruction of the city;
Centuries of desolation; Rebuilding
of the new capital city Yerevan.
This work is laid out for 12 solo strings.
Full capital is made of these more intimate
textures. The music is much more complex
and the composer resorts to buzzing
activity, stridulation and caustic textures
which bring it close to the avant-garde
works of Brian Ferneyhough and the more
‘far out’ Tippett. The Centuries
of desolation are limned in a long
cello solo over cycling whisper-level
harmonics; an affecting effect superbly
calculated and carried off and matched
by the music for the Largo section in
which the long line is taken by the
solo violin. This certainly suggests
the alien otherworldliness of a city
that makes callow youths of the world’s
other cities. A similar effect is carried
off by Hovhaness in his piece for multi-tracked
flute The Spirit of Ink (Crystal
CD). The Sinfonietta ends with the rebuilding
of the city now known as Yerevan. This
work comes as a bit of a shock when
preceded by three other works written
resourcefully but squarely within the
surge and song of the great string tradition.
This is a disc for
connoisseurs of string music; a disc
to set beside such ikons of the recorded
sound and vision as Barbirolli’s Introduction
and Allegro (EMI Classics), Bernstein’s
Schuman Fifth Symphony, Boult’s Howells’
Elegy and Marriner’s Corelli