Piano Concerto; Concerto-Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra
Stepan Simonian (piano); Staatsorchester Rheinische Philharmonie/Daniel Raiskin
CPO 777918-2 54:57 mins
Khachaturian’s Piano Concerto of 1936 combines broad melodies inspired by the folk music of the composer’s native Armenia with teeming virtuoso piano writing, which sometimes slips engagingly into jazzy syncopated patterns. Stepan Simonian plays the solo part with assured technique, but the cadenzas in particular occasionally take on a hesitant start-stop character. (Xiayin Wang on Chandos offers greater fluency, as well as an attractive crystalline clarity.) The recording keeps a good balance between the soloist and the supportive orchestra, but fails to bring out the most striking innovation in Khachaturian’s scoring, the doubling and blurring of a violin melody in the slow movement by a flexatone.
Khachaturian’s three concertos, for piano, violin and cello, are matched by a series of single-movement Concerto-Rhapsodies for the same instruments, written late in his career. The piano work, from 1968, seems at first to be cut from the same cloth as the Concerto: but at around the half-way mark an apparent reference to the composer’s famous ‘Sabre Dance’ acts as the starting-pistol for an extended and exhilarating stretch of sustained rhythmic energy. For Khachaturian enthusiasts, this performance (more taut than Oxana Yablonskaya’s on Naxos) may well constitute the main attraction of CPO’s disc.