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Recordings of the Month


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Aram KHACHATURIAN (1903-1978)
Concerto-Rhapsody in B flat minor (1961-62) [23:11]
Sonata-Monologue (1975) [12:31]
Sergei LYAPUNOV (1859-1924)
Violin Concerto in D minor Op.61 (1915 rev 1921) [22:06]
Hideko Udagawa (violin)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Alan Buribayev
rec. October 2011, Henry Wood Hall, London

This is a most unusual triptych of works to bring together and speaks of some committed programme making. Khachaturianís Concerto-Rhapsody is seldom heard in the concert hall and it makes only sporadic appearances in the catalogues. Composed for Leonard Kogan between 1961 and 1962, it was premiered by the violinist on 3 November 1962 with Kondrashin conducting the Moscow Philharmonic. A surviving live performance from the same forces a week or so later exists and is on a Kogan Brilliant Classics box [93030; 10 CDs]. The Sonata-Monologue is, if anything, even rarer on the recital stage and on disc. The dedicatee and first performer was Viktor Pikaizen and the premiere recording is housed in a 5 CD set devoted to the artist [Melodiya MEL CD 10 01000]. I have reviewed it on this site. Sergei Lyapunovís lovely Concerto was written in 1915. Itís not as personalised as Glazunovís or Conusís concertos, which is why violinists avoid it, but it has choice lyricism in the first movement, and a tune almost good enough for ĎStrangers in Paradiseí, as well as a commanding cadenza, and should certainly be played far more often than it is. Iíve only otherwise heard Fedotovís Naxos recording with Yablonsky on Naxos 8.570462 (review review).
Hideko Udagawa has recorded quite a deal of Russian music and her eminent teacher was Nathan Milstein. Her Khachaturian violin and piano disc with Boris Berezovsky for Koch (review) a number of years ago most valuably contained no fewer than seven world premiere recordings. She is certainly au fait with the ethos of the two composers here and is often a passionate artist. The accompaniments of the RPO and Alan Buribayev are perfectly reasonable and so is the recording, except for the fact that it places the soloist uncomfortably forward sometimes. This is a particular problem in unaccompanied passages, such as the cadenzas but most particularly in the case of the Sonata-Monologue. Given her selfless pedigree I donít wish to make a point of this beyond noting that there are a number of technical frailties evident throughout her performances of all three works. The very (solo) start of the Concerto-Rhapsody includes squeaks, bowing roughness, and impoverished tone. Her shaping of the same composerís Sonata-Monologue is woolly, and the playing, alas, again leaves much to be desired. Things are somewhat better in the Lyapunov, except for the exposed cadenza. Each of the alternative versions above is preferable, despite - except the Naxos - their age. It pains me to say it, but this disc wasnít an easy or enjoyable listen for me.
Jonathan Woolf

see also review by Nick Barnard