Program 74
"Catchy Khachaturian, Part 1"

MUSIC: Khachaturian: "Sabre Dance" from Gayaneh performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Yuri Temirkanov [EMI CDC 7 47348 2, track 6] [under the following]

Ah, yes. "The Sabre Dance" from the ballet suite Gayne [GUY-nuh] by Aram Khachaturian. This is by far this 20th Century Armenian composer's most famous work.

Welcome to Compact Discoveries. I'm your guide Fred Flaxman, and I'm calling the theme for this hour "Catchy Khachaturian, Part 1." Khachaturian wrote so many wonderful melodies that it is going to take me two hours to play my favorites. So there will also be a "Catchy Khachaturian, Part 2."

During this hour we'll listen to Khachaturian's Masquerade Suite, written in 1944, and his Violin Concerto, composed in 1940. "Catchy Khachaturian, Part 2" will include excerpts from the ballet Spartacus and the suite from the ballet Gayne, which includes the "Sabre Dance."

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Before we begin, a few words about this extraordinarily gifted tunesmith.

Khachaturian was born in a suburb of the capital of Georgia in 1903. He died in Moscow in 1978. In addition to the famous pieces I just mentioned, Khachaturian wrote a piano concerto and about 25 film scores, including one for a film about Lenin, from 1948, and one called "The Battle of Stalingrad" from 1949.

These intensely patriotic films were made during the 1948 purges, when Khachaturian was criticized for some of his recent work, in particular his Third Symphony from 1947. That was written for the 30th anniversary of the October Revolution, and was noted not so much for its musical substance as for what we might call today its special effects. It calls for a large orchestra, including an organ and no less than 15 extra trumpets.

But later Khachaturian gained considerable success with a series of concert rhapsodies, first for violin, then for cello, and finally for piano. These were marked by rhythmic vitality, rich orchestration, and intoxicating melody, all influenced by Armenian folk music.

This same description can easily be applied to Khachaturian's earlier Masquerade Suite. It was written for an 1835 drama by Mikhail Lermontov, which was staged in Moscow with Khachaturian's music on June 21, 1941. That was the day before the beginning of Russia's entry into World War II.

We hear the Masquerade Suite now as performed by Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by the composer. This was recorded in 1954 by EMI. It is a monaural compact disc, but I think you'll find the sound quality acceptable, and the interpretation definitive.

MUSIC: Khachaturian: Masquerade Suite with the composer conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra [EMI CDC 5 55035 2, tracks 1, 2 and 3] [11:19]

The Masquerade Suite by Aram Khachaturian. The composer conducted the Philharmonia Orchestra on an EMI Classics compact disc.

You are listening to Compact Discoveries. I'm your guide, Fred Flaxman, and I am devoting this hour to "Catchy Khachaturian, Part 1."

[optional 1-minute cut-away not included in the 58:00 total timing]

In April, 1954, Khachaturian declared that he "most emphatically" upheld the "great principles of socialist art." As a result, even though he was a 20th Century composer, his works are really quite traditional, romantic and easy to appreciate.

According to the program notes accompanying this CD by Russian composer Dmitri Smirnov, the doctrine of socialist realism stated that music must be "the people's in its form and socialist in its content," meaning that it had to be simple, intelligible, close to its folk roots, optimistic, and, above all, it had to glorify the regime, its ideology and its leaders.

Khachaturian did not need to control his compositional style or inspiration to meet these requirements. His music was robust and cheerful by nature, and it was based on simple, quasi-national motives and rhythms. It did not deviate from the framework of generally accepted traditions of form and style. His was a voice that was understood by the Communist Party leaders. As a result, he received all conceivable prizes, rewards, awards, ranks and titles.

Khachaturian's exhilarating rhythmic drive and vitality and his intoxicating melodies are very much evident in his Violin Concerto in D Minor, which we'll hear next. In this performance the violin soloist is Itzhak Perlman and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra is conducted by Zubin Mehta on an EMI digital stereo compact disc.

MUSIC: Khachaturian: Violin Concerto in D Minor with Itzhak Perlman, violin, and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Zubin Mehta [EMI CDC 747087 2, tracks 1, 2 and 3] [35:15]

Aram Khachaturian's Violin Concerto in D Minor. The violinist was Itzhak Perlman. The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra was conducted by Zubin Mehta.

We have time for a little bonus piece by Khachaturian: the third and final movement from his delightful Piano Sonatina. You'll hear the composer's familiar use of rhythm, harmony and melody. This piece couldn't be by anyone else. The soloist is the Argentine pianist Alberto Portugheis on an Academy Sound and Vision ASV compact disc.

MUSIC: Khachaturian: Sonatina: Third Movement: Allegro mosso, performed by Alberto Portugheis [Academy Sound and Vision ASV CD DCA 589, track 6] [3:23]

Alberto Portugheis played the third movement of Khachaturian's 1959 Sonatina, bringing to a conclusion this hour of Compact Discoveries.

MUSIC: Khachaturian: "Sabre Dance" from Gayaneh performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Yuri Temirkanov [EMI CDC 7 47348 2, track 6] [under the following]

I hope you enjoyed "Catchy Khachaturian, Part 1." If you like this melodius music as much as I do, please join me for "Catchy Khachaturian, Part 2" when we'll listen to music from two of his ballets: Spartacus and Gayne.

If you have an idea for a theme for a future Compact Discoveries program, please share it with me. You can contact me, Fred Flaxman, through the Compact Discoveries website:

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