ARAM KHACHATURIAN: Concerto-Rhapsody in B-flat minor; Sonata-Monologue for solo violin; SERGEI LYAPUNOV: Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 61 – Hideko Udagawa, v./ Royal Philharmonic Orch./ Alan Buribayev – Signum Classics SIGCD312 (Distr. by Naxos) 57:49 ****:
Khachaturian (1903-1978), a Soviet era Armenian composer, produced some of the most popular music of that period, heard around the world. His Piano Concerto in D-flat (1936) helped to vault the American pianist William Kapell to musical stardom in the 1940s. Khachaturian’s ballet Gayane includes the famous “Sabre Dance” which even made it into U.S. jukeboxes over 50 years ago.
His ballet Spartacus has the often-heard “Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia” which was used in soundtracks for television series and films. His Violin Concerto in D minor (1940) was recorded in the USSR by David Oistrakh in the 1940s and appeared in the U.S. in a leather-bound set of 78 rpm Mercury Records.
Khachaturian’s Concerto-Rhapsody is not his Violin Concerto. It is one of a series of single movement concertos composed in 1961-62. Without the benefit of the coloring of Armenian folk music and the use of fierce rhythms, this Concerto-Rhapsody is more of a threnody or lament. Depending on your mood or enthusiasm for Khachaturian’s music, this work might be something you want. Or not.
The violinist Hideko Udagawa has built an enviable reputation, with some specialization in the Russian romantics. Her interpretation of the Khachaturian Concerto-Rhapsody is both brilliant and convincing, especially with the collaboration of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Kazakh conductor Alan Buribayev.
Also on this CD is the Violin Concerto (1915) of Sergei Lyapunov (1859-1924). He was one of a group of early folksong collectors (along with Balakirev and Liadov) commissioned by the (Russian) Imperial Geographical Society. The concerto is in one movement, Romantic and heartsick. The first performance was in 1916 with piano accompaniment. The full concerto with orchestra did not get heard until 1944 in Moscow.
While this is not top-drawer Russian Romantic music, it has its sad charms. Udagawa, Buribayev and the orchestra provide an unmatched reading of this seldom-heard work. For lovers of violin pyrotechnics, there is an ample amount in this score.
Rounding out the program is Khachaturian’s Sonata-Monologue for solo violin, composed in 1975. It is one of a series of solo string instrument works which he composed towards the end of his life. Khachaturian incorporated some folk color in the composition, with the suggested portrait of an itinerant Armenian bard as an overall thought. Udagawa again is in her element.
Mike Hatch has engineered another recording with exceptional sound. The comprehensive and eloquent program notes are by Malcolm MacDonald.