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Aram KHACHATURIAN (1903-1978)
Cello Concerto in E minor (1946) [33:43]
Krzysztof PENDERECKI (b. 1933)
Cello Concerto No. 2 (1982) [36;14]
Astrig Siranossian (cello), Sinfonia Varsovia/Adam Klocek
rec. Witold Lutosławski Concert Studio of Polish Radio, Varsovia, Poland, 2017
CLAVES 50-1802 [70:01]

This might seem an odd combination of works, with thirty-six years between their composition and the difference in the compositional styles of the composers they seem unlikely bedfellows, but as Astrig Siranossian points out in her booklet notes, both these works are very dramatic with both “Khachaturian and Penderecki offering the most complete vision of the cello as solo instrument, supported by very dense orchestration.”

Aram Khachaturian composed his Cello Concerto in 1946 for Sviatoslav Knushevitsky, who along with the other members of the ‘Oistrakh Trio’, David Oistrakh and Lev Oborin, were all dedicatees of concertos by the composer, with the Cello Concerto being the final concerto of the three. Although published in 1946, it seems that some of the music was based upon ideas that Khachaturian had worked on during his time as a cello student in Moscow. This concerto is the least known of the three, and this is partly due to the work often being described as more of a symphony with cello than a true concerto, and it has thus slipped from the repertoire of modern cellists. Despite this the concerto has received a few recordings and I do have a copy of the dedicatee performing the work (SU 4100-2), although the recording is showing its age a bit.

Astrig Siranossian’s performance is a little quicker than Knushevitsky’s, but not by much, indeed her performance is very close to that of the competition, where she scores highly is in the long cadenza of the first movement, which in reality is the focal pint for the soloist in the whole work; here her performance is strong and characterful, something that is aided by the greater clarity of the recorded sound. Khachaturian is said to have poured his experiences during the Second World War, when he fort in the defence of Moscow and for which he received a medal, this could be why he quotes the Dies Irae in the first movement, with another influence being the folk music of the Caucasus, an area with which his family had close ties. This is a very interesting work, one that led the composer to fall foul of the Soviet authorities after the Zhdanov Decree two years later in 1948; it is also a work that deserves to be better known and with Astrig Siranossian’s performance we have an advocate that should win the work some new friends.

Krzysztof Penderecki has composed a number of concertante works for cello, with the Cello Concerto No. 1 represented most in the catalogues, with a handful of discs featuring the Cello Concerto No. 2. The concerto was composed in 1982 and dedicated to Mstislav Rostropovich, who also gave the first performance as well making the première recording. It is cast in a single continuous movement, although here, as in other recordings, each of the sections within the concerto have been given a separate index point, so six tracks in all, and includes several cadenzas. This is a work that like the Khachaturian is quite dramatic, but here Penderecki employs the orchestra and soloist to drive the tension and drama of the work, with his more avant-garde compositional style bringing out the cellos' more percussive side. This is one of my favourite works by the composer and whilst Astrig Siranossian’s performance is excellent, it doesn’t quite reach the heights of the works dedicatee Rostropovich under the baton of the composer (2564 619322-2).

This is an excellent disc; I especially enjoyed the performance of the Khachaturian and Astrig Siranossian proves herself a fine interpreter of both these works whilst the Sinfonia Varsovia under the baton of Adam Klocek are in fine form. The recorded sound is very good, whilst the booklet notes are a little thin and I do not agree with Siranossian’s assertion that both these works have “dense orchestration”, with the performance of the Khachaturian especially being given a lot more air and clarity than my other recording.

Stuart Sillitoe

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