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Aram KHACHATURIAN (1903-1978)
Song-Poem (1929) [5:32]
Dance No.1* (1925) [2:31]
Elegy* (1925) [3:50]
Dance (1926) [4:13]
Sonata for Violin and Piano (1932) [16:08]
Masquerade (1940): Nocturne* [3:41]
Gayaneh (1942): Sabre Dance [2:28]; Ayesha’s Dance [3:21]; Nuneh’s Variation* [1:34]; Lullaby [4:38]
Spartacus (1954): Dance of Aegina* [2:33]; Grand Adagio* [7:47]
Hideko Udagawa (violin); Boris Berezovsky (piano)
rec. 5-6 July 2000, The Recital Hall, Purchase College, USA. DDD
Text included (* world premiere recordings)
NIMBUS NI6269 [58:16]

Although Khachaturian originally studied the piano he acquired a great familiarity with the violin while in this teens and some of his first compositions were for the violin. On this disc we have some of those early compositions as well as his Sonata from 1932 and violin versions of music from three of his stage works.
 
Khachaturian’s early works demonstrate his thorough absorption of the varied musical influences of his native Tbilisi. You can also hear his great enthusiasm for Impressionism, especially for the music of Ravel. This is especially evident in the languorous Elegy and the motoric Dance No. 1. The Dance from 1926 is slightly more distinctive with able contrast of its two themes. The Song Poem is written in homage to the wandering musicians of the Caucasus and evidences the Khachaturian we are familiar with, especially in its final pages. Udagawa’s playing here is very incisive while the accompaniment by Berezovsky is rather dreamy. This would not at first seem to be a good fit but actually works well given the varied characteristics of these early works.
 
The two-movement Violin Sonata was one of the first works to bring Khachaturian serious attention. The slow movement alternates typically rhapsodic elements with tense episodes before relaxing into a beautiful central section. The Allegro is less folk-like than the preceding movement and has a driven first section followed by a thoughtful second which the composer skilfully blends into a solid structure. Udagawa plays the Sonata in a slightly hurried fashion, but definitely puts the piece across.
 
Khachaturian himself arranged the famous Nocturne from Masquerade for violin and piano. Udagawa and Berezovsky perform it in a fashion more flowing than dramatic. This could also be said of the Lullaby from the ballet Gayaneh although the other selections are very poetically done. Udagawa and Berezovsky are at their best with the Spartacus selections: Aegina’s music is appropriately cynical and the adagio for Spartacus and Phrygia is truly moving.
 
These recordings originally appeared on Koch International in 2003 (see review). The Nimbus transfer is quite effective and the notes informative, although I must mention that the opus numbers have been left out of the text. However this disc provides an excellent example of ensemble playing as well as showcasing Udagawa’s flair for Khachaturian (see review). In addition it is the best available recording of the Violin Sonata.

William Kreindler