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Prokofiev: Violin Concertos, Sonata, 5 Melodies / Aharonian


Release Date: 02/13/2007 
Label:  Arte Nova   Catalog #: 496870   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Ruben AharonianIrina Kandinskaja
Conductor:  Samuel Friedmann
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Russian Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 10 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



PROKOFIEV Violin Concertos: No. 1 in D; No. 2 in g. 5 Melodies. 1 Solo Violin Sonata Rouben Aharonian (vn); Samuel Friedmann, cond; Russian PO; Irina Kandinskaya (pn) 1 ARTE NOVA 496870 (69:44)


Rouben Aharonian, born, according to the CD’s biographical note, in 1947 in Riga, studied with Yankelevich and Kogan and took first prize in the Concours de Montreal in 1972, as well as second in the Read more Enescu Competition in 1970, and the Tchaikovsky Competition in 1974. Prokofiev’s First Concerto had been for a long time the jointly held territory of Joseph Szigeti and David Oistrakh, with Nathan Milstein also staking a claim. Aharonian’s reading, from May 1996, shares Oistrakh’s rapt intensity in the outer movements, although his tone, captured close up by the Russian engineers, hardly possesses the buttery warmth of Oistrakh’s. The orchestral support, rich in color and detail, makes credible Yvonne Drynda’s remark in her brief but exceptional notes about how much the First Concerto owes to Rimsky-Korsakov and Glazunov. Aharonian plays the Scherzo with a weight and ferocity similar to Oistrakh’s, although, once again, his tone possesses a hard, somewhat unpleasant, edge (at least, because of the recorded sound, it seems to). But, edge or no, Aharonian plays the last movement’s opening, over a droll accompaniment sharply characterized by the orchestra, with melting lyricism, which he intensifies when the lyrical theme returns throughout the movement. The Concerto’s final moments dissolve, as they do in Oistrakh’s performances, into realms of magic.


Just as Oistrakh and Szigeti defined the personality of Prokofiev’s First Concerto, Heifetz set the benchmark for the Second. He showed, in doing so, that a no-nonsense approach could yield benefits for the work’s tumultuously thumping rhythms as well as for its intensely lyrical pages. Aharonian thrusts and slashes with a ferocity almost equal to Heifetz’s; but, in contrast, he heats up the first movement’s soaring second theme, trading a more diffuse incandescence for Heifetz’s white-hot concentration of emotional energy. He takes the second movement less deliberately, but its elegant opening statement hardly thereby loses any of its sweetness. The transition to the return of the opening, played with a matter-of-fact separation between notes, assumes a wittier role. Aharonian’s reading of the finale similarly integrates bite and lyricism, perhaps more effectively than Heifetz’s did. Throughout this Concerto, Aharonian raises listeners’ hackles in melodic passages as startlingly as in sardonically cutting ones.


A new Aharonian emerges in the Five Melodies : the engineers have stepped back and allowed the sound of his violin to blossom. That distance suits both violin and violinist perfectly in these short works, which he plays with richly nuanced sensitivity and sharp rhythmic verve. Szigeti usually brought unmatched penetration to his performances of works of this kind, but Aharonian finds in this music a wider range of expressive ideas, from the teasing and piquant to the commanding and ardent, and Irina Kandinskaya makes a similarly broad inquiry into the piano part.


Oistrakh supposedly declined to play Prokofiev’s Sonata for Solo Violin, written for class performance by groups of violins; although Szigeti and Ruggiero Ricci took it up, the former finding in it a bittersweet lozenge and the latter, a virtuoso tour de force . Aharonian, not forcing it into a mold, allows it to emerge with a personality of its own. He brings an especially high level of characterization to the second movement’s variations (in which his double stops ring with Kreislerian resonance).


Those who can grow to accept—or overlook—the recorded sound and Aharonian’s slightly unrefined tone production should find in these performances highly idiomatic readings of Prokofiev’s violin music that possess personality without mannerism, that stand in the grand tradition but also stand out from it on account of their urgent communicativeness. And, when all’s said and done, that recorded sound, which reveals so clearly the ingenuity and effectiveness—both dramatic and coloristic—of Prokofiev’s orchestration, achieves a certain credibility of its own. Be that as it may, such highly charged performances necessarily come equally highly recommended. For some, their energy and stylistic integrity may place them, especially in their totality, ahead of most—if not all—others. I urgently want to hear this violinist performing works by Shostakovich and Khachaturian—or, I suspect, anything he wants to play.


FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

1. Concerto for Violin no 1 in D major, Op. 19 by Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Ruben Aharonian (Violin)
Conductor:  Samuel Friedmann
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Russian Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1916-1917; Russia 
Venue:  Russian Broadcasting Studios, Moscow 
Length: 21 Minutes 5 Secs. 
Notes: Russian Broadcasting Studios, Moscow (05/22/1996 - 05/26/1996) 
2. Concerto for Violin no 2 in G minor, Op. 63 by Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Ruben Aharonian (Violin)
Conductor:  Samuel Friedmann
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Russian Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1935; Paris, France 
Venue:  Russian Broadcasting Studios, Moscow 
Length: 24 Minutes 55 Secs. 
Notes: Russian Broadcasting Studios, Moscow (05/22/1996 - 05/26/1996) 
3. Melodies (5) for Violin and Piano, Op. 35bis by Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Irina Kandinskaja (Piano), Ruben Aharonian (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1925; Paris, France 
Venue:  Russian Broadcasting Studios, Moscow 
Length: 11 Minutes 55 Secs. 
Notes: Russian Broadcasting Studios, Moscow (05/22/1996 - 05/26/1996) 
4. Sonata for Violin solo in D major, Op. 115 by Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Ruben Aharonian (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1947; USSR 
Venue:  Russian Broadcasting Studios, Moscow 
Length: 11 Minutes 6 Secs. 
Notes: Russian Broadcasting Studios, Moscow (05/22/1996 - 05/26/1996) 

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