The concerto is rather
démodé these days. This
is a pity as it has much that is exciting
and beguiling. It is almost sixty years
since the work took the world by storm,
hot on the heels of Shostakovich's Leningrad.
It has somehow shaken down into the
same part of the concerto ‘sack’ as
the Korngold. However don't be ashamed
to enjoy this concerto. It is, by turns,
gaudy, poetic and catchy.
Martin and Kuchar lean
towards the languorous and at 38.46
this must be among the slowest of versions.
While slow late-Bernstein can be outrageously
fascinating I am not at all sure that
this approach comes off successfully
here. In any event you know what you
are going to get. When the music offers
an opportunity for introspection the
Romanian violinist Mihaela Martin and
Kuchar are there, ready and willing.
My preference in the concerto extends
to Oistrakh or the dedicatee Kogan
or Mordkovitch on Chandos.
However when we turn
to the Concerto-Rhapsody, Martin turns
the tables on us. The catalogue is not
exactly thriving with versions of this
single movement 1961 work. It is one
of three such Concerto-Rhapsodies (one
of each for piano, cello, violin) which
Khachaturian wrote during the 1960s.
None of these have really caught on
... so far. This version, however, is
the best I have heard. It labours under
the disadvantage of melodic invention
that lacks the memorability of his writing
in the 1930s and 1940s. That is a problem
shared by all three single movement
rhapsodies. Martin however makes the
work a real avocation. Listen to the
way she makes essentially mundane ideas
shine at 5.30, shaping ideas thoughtfully.
She is imaginatively partnered by Kuchar's
orchestra - how long has he been with
them now? The sparks fly in all directions
later on. The last six minutes of this
arguably overlong work show why we should
keep an eye on Martin. Her legato phrasing
sings smoothly but also draws out the
louring clouds of the work. The rash
and rattling virtuosity from 21.00 onwards
is quite stunning with Hungarian flavouring,
a hoarse Dervish whirl and fruity elegance
A rather introspective
take on this Concerto (if you can imagine
such a thing) but the reference recording
of the Concerto-Rhapsody.
has also listened to this disc
like his colleague Shostakovich, spent
a large part of his career dodging the
whims of the Soviet government, falling
in and out of favor, and thus suffering
a bit of a roller-coaster ride in terms
of his international recognition and
popularity. Although certainly a product
of the Soviet school that included such
stars as Prokofiev, Myaskovsky, Vainberg
and Shostakovich, the Armenian-born
Khachaturian never seems to have lost
his native voice. His music is evocative
of his eastern homeland.
The two substantial
works for violin and orchestra presented
in this recording were both composed
for major Russian soloists; the Concerto
of 1940 for David Oistrakh and the Concerto-Rhapsody
of 1961 for Leonid Kogan. Both draw
on folk themes from the composer’s native
Armenia and both are packed with emotion-laden
The 1940 concerto opens
with a rollicking dance-like theme that
is followed by a more lyrical second
idea. After a mid-movement cadenza,
the first theme returns with a vengeance.
There follows a rhapsodic slow movement
that sweeps one into a brooding wintry
landscape. The finale is a whirlwind
of motion and virtuosity.
is less classically structured than
the earlier work, and in many ways,
more freely composed in terms of its
melodic sweep and rhythmic gesture.
That Khachaturian composed two other
works in this same genre indicates perhaps
that he was at his most comfortable
in music of less strict formal structure.
Mihaela Martin is a
violinist who combines passion, control
and careful thought with a bit of risk.
She is never afraid to dig into the
strings of her violin, eliciting a somewhat
raspy tone in order to pump up the adrenaline
levels in her listeners. She is quite
technically comfortable too, and she
tears off the lightning-fast virtuoso
passages with the ease that one would
rip off sheets from a memo pad.
Not at all limited
to displays of pyrotechnical finger
work, Ms. Martin is quite the singer
too, making the lyrical passages come
alive with her fine sense of line and
the rise and fall of emotional intensity.
Theodore Kuchar and
his National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine
is an excellent match for this fine
soloist. Maestro Kuchar knows exactly
when the orchestra is in the lead and
when it must be subordinate to the soloist.
He matches Ms. Martin with a fine display
of both technical precision and jolly
abandon. Soloist and orchestra alike
revel in the sheer fun of making music
together on so high a level.
turns in fine program notes as is his
custom, and the sound quality is first
rate. Splendid music made splendidly.