KHACHATURIAN: Song-Poem; Dance; Dance No. 1; Elegy; Sonata for Violin and Piano; Masquerade: Nocturne; Gayaneh: Sabre Dance; Ayesha’s Dance; Nuneh Variation; Lullaby; Spartacus: Dance of Aegina; Grand Adagio – Hideko Udagawa, violin/ Boris Berezovsky, p. – Nimbus Alliance NI 6269, 58:16 (4/1/14) ****:
Interesting violin-piano works of Khachaturian.
Hideko Udagawa, a protégé of Nathan Milstein, collaborates with Russian piano virtuoso Boris Berezovsky – 1990 Gold Medal Winner at the International Tchaikovsky Competition – in this salute to mostly youthful Aram Khachaturian, recorded at SUNY Purchase, 5-6 July 2000. The recital includes seven world premier recordings, all a tribute to the composer’s natural affection for the violin, which began with his Dance in B-flat Major, 1926. Its fusion of Caucasian and gypsy elements occurs in a thoroughly vocal, ornamental manner, utilizing double stops and quick shifts of registration. Udagawa’s razor-sharp tone reminds more of Ricci than Milstein, but the fire in her playing could nod to either past master.
The 1925 Dance No. 1 first appears to be a variant of Debussy’s Golliwog’s Cakewalk, but the music turns to Bartok and the Parisian café, cross-fertilized by Moorish aromatics. The quirky last page dissipates into the wings. Elegy (1925) proves “impressionistic” in a salon style melodic as a muezzin morning call might be, but more amorous. The 1929 Song-Poem bears a dedication, “in honor of the Ashugs,” the itinerant, Caucasian bards who frequented the Middle East. Berezovsky’s keyboard rather strums like a guitar or dulcimer typical of folk and gypsy music. Commentators find an influence from Ravel in the use harmonics and thin-spun melody, but perhaps more improvisatory and rhapsodic, like an exotic version of Ernest Bloch.
The “big” piece of these early-oeuvre Khachaturian gems, the Violin Sonata (1932), could be mistaken for Kodaly or Enescu, its two movements alternately languorous and dazzlingly spirited. The first movement, Lent: Rubato ed espressivo, casts a dreamy spell amidst passing pungent harmonies from the keyboard that sound like a Gallic version of Scriabin. The second movement Allegro ma non troppo contains virtuosic moments for both partners, spicy and vigorous, and interrupted by a moving lyricism. This expansive movement includes a brief cadenza for the violin of sweeping power, which ushers in the pungent chords of the keyboard. Together, the dueling instruments proceed to a series of whirling or percussive effects that still sing to the coda, even in the midst of blazing, frenetic dance gestures. This debut recording should inspire other virtuosos to take up its cause.
The remainder of the Udagawa-Berezovsky program consists of transcriptions, of which the Sabre Dance and Ayesha’s Dance belong to Jascha Heifetz. The 1940 Nocturne from Masquerade – also making its debut recording – exploits Udagawa’s piercing line while displaying Berezovsky’s glittery parlando suave sense of interior pulsation. Gayaneh (1942) has always generated a primal, fierce energy, and the Sabre Dance moves like a galloping sword brandished by the Mongol horde. A passionately lilted waltz defines Ayesha, the Kurdish girl who is to marry Gayaneh’s brother. The debut inscription of Nuneh’s Variation depicts the heroine’s younger sister in a transcription by L. Feigin. That Khachaturian can fashion a melody of Grieg-like simplicity has its proof in Gayaneh’s “Lullaby,” realized with disarming grace by our principals. The two newly inscribed excerpts from Spartacus (1954) portray the decadent Aegina and the passionately loving Spartacus and Phrygia, respectively. The excellent sonic – and often “symphonic” imaging comes to us courtesy of Recording and Editing Engineer Marc Stedman.