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Khachaturian: Cello Concerto, Violin Concerto / Muller-Schott, Steinbacher, Oramo

Release Date: 07/27/2004 
Label:  Orfeo   Catalog #: 623041   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Aram Khachaturian
Performer:  Arabella SteinbacherDaniel Müller-Schott
Conductor:  Sakari Oramo
Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Heartfelt performances of two approachable concertos

This first thing that struck me about this disc was Oliver Wazola’s fascinating booklet-note. It relates an extraordinary incident in 2003 where the management of Budapest’s Vigado Hall cancelled a concert because the works programmed had all been written in Stalin’s honour. Wazola then goes on to catalogue various brushes with the authorities suffered by Khachaturian; though heard in relation to the best of Prokofiev and Shostakovich it is hard to imagine how even the most spiky censor could hear anything less sinister in this music than good tunes, high spirits and warmth of emotion.

The Cello Concerto of 1946, one of the few concertos after Grieg to
Read more open with a timpani roll, is a case in point: tense to start with but soon settling to a balmy if occasionally reflective Allegro moderato. Possibly the score’s most original music is the opening of the second movement, with its lavish tutti (shades of early Bartók), swirling harps and imaginative use of woodwinds. As in the earlier Violin Concerto, the principal melody is sinuous and Eastern-sounding (though less memorable), the dance-like finale a near-relation to the Gayaneh ballet. Even in a performance as agile and well-managed as Daniel Müller-Schott’s, various repeated patterns do rather test one’s patience. This gifted young German bows a warm, seamless line, especially memorable in the finale’s lyrical central section.

Munich-born Arabella Steinbacher (b1981) is younger still. She has plenty to say about the superior Violin Concerto, especially the slower passages and in the long first-movement cadenza which she infuses with considerable emotion. And yet her playing has less polish or subtle colouring than Sergey Khachatryan. Sakari Oramo and his Birmingham players are supportive and imaginative partners, but you sense less of a flow in the the first movement, Steinbacher sounding more effortful than Khachatryan, as if she would rather have pulled the tempo back just a little. I will stick with him for the Violin Concerto, but I would commend this nicely recorded disc to those who fancy the Cello Concerto, which is given a memorably sympathetic and technically accomplished reading.

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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Violin in D minor by Aram Khachaturian
Performer:  Arabella Steinbacher (Violin)
Conductor:  Sakari Oramo
Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1940; USSR 
Concerto for Cello in E minor by Aram Khachaturian
Performer:  Daniel Müller-Schott (Cello)
Conductor:  Sakari Oramo
Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1946; USSR 

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