Regis are a canny outfit
with a good contact network. Their direct
line to the owners of the ex-Unicorn
catalogue is already well known, but
just as important, is the link with
the currently hors-de-combat Olympia.
While Unicorn and Olympia meet in the
generous Gliere 2CD set (Muromets
and Cello Concerto RRC 2068) the
present disc is entirely ex-Olympia.
Uniquely it presents the complete piano
music of Aram Khachaturian, a composer
much better known for his orchestral
music that for anything else.
roots show through his piano oeuvre
even in his most steely virtuosic pieces.
While the Poem is almost Delian
in its lyricism his most famous piece,
the 1932 Toccata (once recorded
by Moiseiwitsch - a recording now available
on Naxos) also capitulates to song-like
relaxation. The early Two Pieces
are among his most acidulous inspirations
but even they relent for poetic asides.
The Sonatina is in three movements
and if the outer movements are manic-motoric
and granite-hard, folk inspiration provides
contrast in the central panel even if
it is in his best wrong-note accent.
The Ten Children’s Pieces are
the latest works here. They are short
and pin-sharp vignettes drawing on fugues
the composer wrote during his teens.
The only surprising piece is on tr.
14, the Funeral Procession which
sounds like a curiously dissonant monochrome
rhythmics of the Sonatina return in
the Sonata’s first movement with its
souvenirs of the Sabre Dance among
material sounding like an armistice
between Constant Lambert and Handel.
While the Sonata is dedicated to Khachaturian’s
teacher, Nikolai Miaskovsky, the music
is not overtly reminiscent of his autumnal
nostalgia nor does it feature the older
composer’s monumental heroism. The slow
movement plays for 13:38 dwarfing its
flanking companions and if greater emotional
depth also. The suggestion of tolling
bells and a prayerful concentration
suffuse this still centre of gravity.
The pummelling and edgy finale conveys
desperation amid the aggressive chaos
of bells. The Sonata is impressively
played by McLachlan in its original
1961 guise. After such unremitting attack
Mclachlan wisely ends with the sly romance
of the Waltz from Masquerade
(unusually listed as Maskarade
as if it were Nielsen’s opera).
Strange how a work such as Shostakovich’s
waltz from The Gadfly has gained
some celebrity while an intrinsically
finer work like the Khachaturian has
had only limited exposure. It is an
obstinately memorable piece.
The piano sound is
very listenable, fulsome and accommodating
the prescribed extremes of attack. There
is occasionally a sense of congestion
at fff amid the tough expanses
of the Sonata’s finale.
James Murray’s notes
are the ideal companion to this listening
McLachlan makes a persuasive
champion of this music some of which
impresses more for its virtuosity and
aggression rather than its humanity.
Still there is much to intrigue here
and the disc runs to almost 80 minutes
playing time. A double pleasure to welcome
this back to the catalogue at bargain
price through Regis’s good offices.
More Olympia reissues please.