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Two Souls - Barber, Khachaturian / Mikhail Simonyan, Kristjan Jarvi

Release Date: 11/01/2011 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 001617002   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Aram KhachaturianSamuel Barber
Performer:  Mikhail Simonyan
Conductor:  Kristjan Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Low Stock: Currently 3 or fewer in stock. Usually ships in 24 hours, unless stock becomes depleted.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

KHACHATURIAN Violin Concerto. BARBER Violin Concerto. Adagio for Strings Mikhail Simonyan (vn); Kristjan Järvi, cond; London SO DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON B0016170 (70:33)

Violinist Mikhail Simonyan takes the first movement of Aram Khachaturian’s Violin Concerto at a rapid clip, with crisp articulation that recalls Igor, rather than David, Oistrakh’s. As did Igor, too, Simonyan plays with a lighter tonal weight (using a violin and bow by Read more contemporary violinmaker Christophe Landon) than David’s, imparting to it a buoyant incisiveness, occasionally relieved, as in Igor’s performance, by sonorous but spare orchestral interjections that reflect the soloist’s bright leanness. Simonyan eschews the two standard cadenzas (one by the composer, one by David Oistrakh) in favor of a new and highly ethnic one written for the occasion by the Armenian composer Artur Avanesov. Listeners, however fascinated by the violin’s winding, chant-like meanderings (occasionally taking the form of slides and drone-like accompaniments to dissonances) in this solo passage, may still wonder how well it all fits into Khachaturian’s harmonic and melodic fabric. But in the end, as in Igor Oistrakh’s performance, the rhythmic vitality carries the day. The slow movement sounds both ardent and plaintive (again, as it did in Igor’s performance, although in this reading with more sharply detailed filigree, while Kristjan Järvi and the orchestra create a more ominous sense of brooding in the orchestral passages), and the engineers have captured a great deal of detail underlying the splashes of color. Simonyan bites harder into the finale’s quirky main theme, and he plays the notes that shift octaves with the offhand nonchalance of a folk fiddler. But he belts the movement’s big theme on the G String with the assurance of an orator.

In Samuel Barber’s concerto, soloist, conductor, and orchestra exchange corduroy brashness for silken lyricism (at least in the first two movements), but in the first movement, they build up to an ardent climax, and the engineers have captured plenty of the brasses’ bite in those passages. On the whole, it’s a more skittish reading than Isaac Stern’s landmark one from 1964. The slow movement gains in atmosphere from a relaxation that allows its series of reflections to unfold naturally. Simonyan notes in the booklet that he decided to take the finale at a slightly slower tempo and to adopt in it a sort of fiddle-like style. Whatever the means, the finale seems more coherent for his approach, especially near the end, and even seems more worthy of capping off the preceding movements’ lyricism. I recommended Andrés Cárdenes’s recent reading of Barber’s Violin Concerto (Albany Troy 1148) in Fanfare 33:4 as creating a drama at which early readings, like those of Gerle and Stern, only hinted, and I recommended Dylana Jensen’s reading (Mano a Mano) in 34:1. This recording stands with them. The program ends with a hushed and meditative yet sonorous and atmospheric reading by Järvi and the orchestra of Barber’s Adagio for Strings.

Deutsche Grammophon’s release should appeal to those who wish to follow the blossoming careers of young violinists, but also as strongly characterized readings of two harmonically conservative 20th-century violin concertos. Either way, strongly recommended.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Violin in D minor by Aram Khachaturian
Performer:  Mikhail Simonyan (Violin)
Conductor:  Kristjan Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1940; USSR 
Concerto for Violin, Op. 14 by Samuel Barber
Performer:  Mikhail Simonyan (Violin)
Conductor:  Kristjan Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1939; USA 
Adagio for Strings, Op. 11 by Samuel Barber
Conductor:  Kristjan Järvi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1936; Rome, Italy 

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