KHACHATURIAN: Piano Concerto / Concert Rhapsody

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I1'yich Khachaturian (1903 - 1978)

Piano Concerto in D flat major

Concerto Rhapsody in D flat major


An Eastern Armenian by blood, heritageand avowed allegiance, Khachaturian was born in Tbilisi (Tiflis), thecapital of Georgia, the third son of a bookbinder. Composer, conductor,educator, cultural ambassador, Deputy of the Supreme Soviet, brought up in themost vibrantly colourful of folk environments, he came to music relativelylate, at the age of nineteen - a decision reinforced by his days vamping theideological songs of new communism on the so-called "propaganda"trains which used to run between Tbilisi and Erevan. Like the slightly youngerShostakovich an active witness to the tumultuous birth of the Soviet nation, hesettled in Moscow in 1921, living with his actor-brother, Suren, a disciple ofStanislavsky, and being wooed by the sounds of Scriabin and Beethoven("the lightning-like revelation" of the Ninth Symphony).

Competent on cello and piano (he also played the tenor-horn), he enrolled atthe renowned Gnesin Music School (1922-29), from 1925 studying composition with Gnesin himself, aformer pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov and Liadov. In Gnesin's view "a roughdiamond", his knowledge largely determined by Romantic Russian and slavonicmodels, he finished his training at the Moscow Conservatory {1929-37). Here thepre-eminent Miaskovsky, whose assistant he became, taught him composition:"To us younger composers," Khachaturian recalled, "Miaskovskyseemed to be surrounded by a halo, we stood in awe of him. He was respected andvenerated by everybody... it was considered the greatest honour imaginable to behis pupil".


Khachaturian's life was an illustriousroll-call of triumph and popular success, marred only by the censure and"formalistic" accusations of the post-war Zhdanov years, a subject hefelt privately at the time "should not be taken too seriously" (hewas guilty more by association than action) yet which, even at the endof his life, he remained reluctant to talk about. Considered by the latethirties to be already a "leading Soviet composer" (Grigori shneerson),he was from ear1y on central to the hard-core of the Soviet Establishment. Prokofievencouraged him. shostakovich admired the Armenian-inflected First Symphony

(his graduation exercise from the Conservatoire). David Oistrakh gave the firstperformance of the Violin Concerto. In 1939 his dedication to party andstate was duly recognised with Deputy Presidency of the Organizing Committee ofthe Composers' Union) and a Lenin Prize. The following decade the folk ballet Gayaneh

(music of "animal vigour"), two further symphonies and a CelloConcerto confirmed a standing considerable equally within and beyond the USSR.

In 1950 Khachaturian took up a composition professorship at the Moscow Conservatoire.

Four years later the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet made him a People's Artistof the USSR, the ultimate accolade. Following the success of Spartacus

towards the end of the fifties, his remaining years were devoted less tocomposition, and more to conducting, teaching, burocracy and travel. He touredwidely, visiting, among other places, Italy (1950), Britain (1955, 1977), LatinAmerica (1957) and the USA (1968).


"A clever musician who knows very trick of thetrade... Khachaturian's talent seems fundamentally commonplace; but theathletic rhythms and luxurious texture of his orchestral music have a brashappeal" (Record Guide, 1951). "Not an innovator, he condemnedmusical experimentation; his music is straightforward and elemental in its appealto human emotions... he combined old-fashioned virtuosity with solidcraftsmanship. He represented socialist realism at its best"(Boris schwarz,New Grove, 1980). In his London Financial Times obituary (3rd May1978) Ronald Crichton claimed that "whether or not history will supportthe verdict, Khachaturian in his lifetime ranked as the third most celebratedSoviet composer after shostakovich and Prokofiev". In the Guardian, too,Edward Greenfield expressed the opinion that Khachaturian "notably outshoneother Soviet contemporaries in creating a sharply identifiable style, somethingwhich his successors have found impossible to emulate. In memorable ideas hestands in some ways as the archetype of the Soviet composer, geared [throughhis ballets, film scores, indental music and utilitarian work/march songs] tocommunication with the widest audience". "I accept every one ofmy" compositions," Khachaturian told the present writer, "thoughI have not written the completely ideal one. The fact is, however, that youcannot deny your own compositions. You cannot say 'this I wrote a long time agoand it's no good now.' If you put your heart into a work you cannot deny itlater, just as you cannot deny your children. If I didn't like my own music Iwouldn't let it out of the room... If I felt I was losing my own style, Iwouldn't write any more. I'd sell fruit! The most important thing in a composeris his personality, his aura. Shostakovich once paid me a very great complimentwhen he said that you could recognise a piece of Khachaturian from the firsttwo bars. If this is true, it is grand, marvellous. When I'm dead, everythingwill become clear".


From earliest childhood Khachaturian identified stronglywith the history of his displaced people and their ancient descent. Though aGeorgian by birth, a Muscovite by domicile, and for many years an Armenian onlyby circumstance (he did not actually visit Armenia until 1939), he repeatedlyacknowledged his Armenian predecessors (Komitas, for instance), he evolved hismusical language from ethnic models, and he took as his creed the words of the Armenianpioneer Spendarian, who advised him to "study the music of your own peopleand drink in the sound of life". Gayaneh was a brilliantly vibrant demonstrationof this. Plans to write an opera "on the destiny of the Armenian people,the tragic fate of Armenians scattered all over the world, their suffering andthe struggle" never materialised. Nor, too, did an Armenian Rhapsody for mouth-organand orchestra, intended for his close friend Larry Adler and the ChicagoSymphony Orchestra but unfinished at the time of his death. Yet the intention,the spirit, was always there, the ancestral recognition that "for all its passion,the Armenian song is chaste - for all its ardour, it is restrained in expression.

This is poetry both Oriental in extravagance and Occidental in wisdom. It knowssorrow without despair, passion without excess, ecstasy alien tounrestraint" (Valery Bryusov, 1916). In a revealing article, "MyIdea of the Folk Element in Music" (Sovetskaya muzika , May1952), he wrote: "I grew up in an atmosphere rich in folk music: popularfestivities, rites, joyous and sad events in the life of the people alwaysaccompanied by music, the vivid tunes of Armenian, Azerbaijani and Georgiansongs and dances performed by folk bards [ashugs] and musicians - such were theimpressions that became deeply engraved on my memory, that determined mymusical thinking. They shaped my musical consciousness and lay at thefoundations of my artistic personality... Whatever the changes and improvementsthat took place in my musical taste in later years, the
Item number 8550799
Barcode 730099579926
Release date 12/01/1999
Category 20th Century
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Artists Yablonskaya, Oxana
Yablonskaya, Oxana
Composers Khachaturian, Aram Il'yich
Khachaturian, Aram Il'yich
Conductors Yablonsky, Dmitry
Yablonsky, Dmitry
Orchestras Moscow Symphony Orchestra
Moscow Symphony Orchestra
Producers Inc. Betta International
Inc. Betta International
Disc: 1
Concert Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra in D flat
1 I. Allegro ma non troppo e maestoso
2 II. Andante con anima
3 III. Allegro brilliante
4 Concert Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra in D flat
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