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Khachaturian, Shostakovich / Manoukian, Armenian Po

Release Date: 01/30/2007 
Label:  Marquis   Catalog #: 81339   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Aram KhachaturianDmitri Shostakovich
Performer:  Catherine Manoukian
Conductor:  Edvard Topchian
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

KHACHATURIAN Violin Concerto. SHOSTAKOVICH Violin Concerto No. 1 Catherine Manoukian (vn); Eduard Topchjan, cond; Armenian PO MARQUIS 81339 (76:48)

The first violinist I heard playing Khachaturian’s Violin Concerto, Igor Oistrakh, approached the almost garish work very differently from the way his father had. David, who recorded it in the studio with Gauk and Khachaturian himself, had invested it with his rich-toned moral earnestness; Igor’s Read more performance sounded like quicksilver beside it: light and rhythmically piquant. (Kogan, though also knife-edged, played with more aggression and tonal weight.) Catherine Manoukian, who in her notes takes the rhyme of the composer’s and her last names almost as a sort of humorous coincidence, comes closer—except in the first movement’s cadenza—to Oistrakh père than to Oistrakh fils , energizing the motoric opening motive with tangy rhythmic drive, but tingeing its sinuous second theme with wistful nostalgia. Topchjan’s and the orchestra’s brisk accompaniment helps maintain her strong momentum. In her notes, Manoukian remarks that she had chosen to underplay the work; the similarity to Igor Oistrakh’s performance therefore may not be coincidental. Nevertheless, in the second movement, Manoukian immerses (though doesn’t lose) herself in Khachaturian’s meandering exoticism and allows her tone to expand appropriately to lend urgency to her musings. Like Igor Oistrakh’s, Manoukian’s reading of the last movement keeps its quirky little theme fresh through its many appearances and contrasts it effectively with the more ardent episodes.

The engineers captured Manoukian in Khachaturian’s Concerto in a central position within the orchestra that fits well with her conception of the work; but in Shostakovich’s Concerto, she occasionally sounds, even in the first movement, as though she’s about to capsize, though she claims to have attempted overstatement. And, in purely musical ways, perhaps she has. For example, in the first movement, she’s as darkly brooding as anyone is, including David Oistrakh, and the orchestra, creating almost a deep sense of menace, supports her. In the second movement, she begins the first theme with appropriately sarcastic jabbing; and, though her performance lacks Oistrakh’s high voltage, she tries valiantly to maintain that with which she started to the conclusion, although, once again, she tends to be swallowed up. The wide range of tonal resources, impressive though it may be, hardly prevents her performance of the third movement from bogging down into a sort of bland sonorousness that smothers its dark plaintiveness. Perhaps it’s telling that she claims to feel serene while playing the cadenza: Oistrakh’s versions constantly threatened to explode with pent-up energy—affording no respite. Although hers does begin to pop at the end, Oistrakh’s almost disturbing sense of earlier potential energy is lacking. In the finale, though, Manoukian comes alive with oxymoronic controlled energy. This seems to me the most difficult movement to put across, and Manoukian does so, in conjunction with the orchestra, perhaps as effectively as did even Oistrakh, even at the very end.

The Canadian Manoukian has more recently been pursuing degrees (currently a Ph.D.) in analytic philosophy. While it’s hard to imagine Paganini, Wieniawski, Vieuxtemps, or even the Oistrakhs, interrupting their careers for such intensive study, such a double-barreled approach to life seems more common as musicians either hedge their bets or struggle to expand their intellectual horizons. But whatever she’s been doing, there’s no doubt about it: Catherine Manoukian plays Khachaturian’s Concerto with technical assurance, tonal command, and fresh stylistic insight. (And, after all is said and done, I prefer her less prepossessing reading of Shostakovich’s Concerto to the highly acclaimed but almost unpleasantly taut, edgy one by Maxim Vengerov.) Accordingly, her Khachaturian is strongly recommended, and collectors should find her Shostakovich a bit more than a makeweight.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Violin in D minor by Aram Khachaturian
Performer:  Catherine Manoukian (Violin)
Conductor:  Edvard Topchian
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1940; USSR 
Concerto for Violin no 1 in A minor, Op. 77 by Dmitri Shostakovich
Performer:  Catherine Manoukian (Violin)
Conductor:  Edvard Topchian
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USSR 
Notes: This concerto was originally published in 1956 as Op. 99.
Composition written: USSR (1947 - 1955). 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Armenian Philharmonic's Katchaturian Violin June 6, 2012 By Jake Paul Fratkin (Boulder, CO) See All My Reviews "I have followed the Katchaturian Violin Concerto piece since childhood in the 1950s, first exposed to David Oistriakh. I thought no one could come close to Oistriakh's version, even though his is only available in mono. Itzhak Perlman did a version, which did not carry Oistraikh's passion, only the technical excellence. I have the pleasure of being acquainted with the recently deceased conductor, Yakov Kreizberg, who was working with the remarkable Julie Fischer from Germany. I suggested this piece as a challenge for any violinist, and I was pleased that he took my suggestion. Ms. Fischer did an excellent, excellent job, but again, not Oistraikh. Now, listening on the radio to KUSA (6/6/12), I am hearing Catherine Manoukian with the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra, and I have found Oistriakh's equal, and an orchestral piece worthy of the original. Truly! Perhaps because she and the orchestra are Armenian, Katchaturian's ancestral home. They really capture the passion and authenticity of the composition. I can't wait to hear what they do with Shostakovich!" Report Abuse
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