Ode to Joy - The Spring Sun Rises (1956)
Three Concert Arias (1946)
Ballad of the Motherland (1961)
Poem [aka Poem to Stalin or Ode to Stalin] (1938 rev
March of Zangezur
Vardouhi Khachatrian (mezzo)
Mourad Amirkhanian (bass)
Armenian Philharmonic Chorus
Armenian PO/Loris Tjeknavorian
rec 19/20 July 1999,
ASV CD DCA 1087
Without drawing attention to itself ASV, since 1992, have quietly built a
Khachaturian Edition with Tjeknavorian and the Armenian Phil. The core discs
in this series are the three symphonies. Two CDs, one of film music and the
other including the Lenin Ode should not be overlooked.
To date ASV have overlooked or deliberately steered around the violin concerto
(already well served), the cello concerto and the three concert rhapsodies.
I hope that they will come to them (preferably with Armenian soloists). The
rhapsodies would make a splendid and generous sequence for a single disc.
The orchestra is not the most refined of ensembles but its vivid colours
and rhythmic acuity suit this music to a tee.
The Ode to Joy (to words by Smirnov) is grandiloquent. It has no pretensions
to profundity: more of an enthusiastic paean over a quick pulsing figure
for the strings. It leans and occasionally dives headlong into neon-lit bombast.
It is effective and rabble-rousing with a desperately over the top peroration.
Vardouhi Khachatrian holds nothing back.
The operatic trilogy of Concert Arias have been recorded before (Citadel)
but the ASV has the edge in terms of a more open acoustic and a less hectoring
atmosphere. Poem (If I were a scarlet coral) mixes Gershwin's
Summertime and Tosca. The central Legend has fewer of the
composer's hallmarks but remains inventive. The final Dithyramb returns to
the world of the first song - a gentle susurration - a summer wind. These
all suggest 'escapees' from an opera that Khachaturian never got round to
writing. If Rimsky's operas or Borodin's Prince Igor are for you then
you will want to have these works. The poems are by Turmanian and Peshoktashian.
The booklet prints the English translation (but not the Russian transliteration)
of the arias.
Mourad Amirkhanian's bass voice is cavernous but somehow under-powered -
grey rather than obsidian black - in the Ballad of the Motherland.
The work does not strike home. It has the ring of cardboard.
The March is a vainglorious make-weight in the composer's super-gleeful mode
familiar from the film music disc. It in fact comes from his third (of 18)
The Poem is a big piece playing continuously for about twenty minutes. The
Stalin association has been purged from the title as have all references
to Stalin in the sung text. In fact when revised in 1961 new lyrics were
provided for the choral finale by Lev Ovshamin. It is a very decent piece
of second tier Khachaturian with some commanding brass writing (11.23) and
even a motoric May-Day 'rumba' (12.10). The finale sounds rather like a cross
between William Mathias's This Worlde's Joie and Rozsa's music for
Robert Matthew-Walker's notes have been one of the consistent strengths of
this series. It is however regrettable that the texts and translations of
the other works on this disc are not provided. Why so coy?
Not top drawer Khachaturian but brightly and eagerly performed.
Other discs in the series
ARAM KHACHATURYAN (1903-1978)
Lermontov Suite (1944) Russian Fantasy (1944) Ode in Memory of Lenin (1948)
Greeting Overture (1958) Festive Poem (1950) Armenian PO/Loris Tjeknavorian
rec 28 Oct - 2 Nov 1994, Yerevan, Armenia ASV CD DCA 966 [66.06]
(1903-1978) Film Music Pepo (1934) Undying Flame (1956) Secret
Mission (1950) Admiral Ushakov (1953) Prisoner 217 (1945) Armenian PO/Loris
Tjeknavorian rec 22-23 Oct 1995, Yerevan, Armenia ASV CD DCA 966