WORKS: Symphony No. 3; Triumphal Poem; Caucasian Sketches
PERFORMER: BBC Philharmonic/Fedor Glushchenko
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9321 DDD
To judge Aram Khachaturian’s musical personality from the two works on this disc would be impossible. The Third Symphony and the Triumphal Poem between them have tentacles reaching into every possible musical camp: bombast, Schmaltz, ear-piercing Soviet modernity, twittering tunefulness – you name it, it’s there. The symphony is a particularly bizarre concoction, with a rampaging organ commentary and a cheerless fanfare for 15 extra trumpets that repeats ad nauseam throughout most of the piece. It’s quite impressive – the recording is wonderfully clear and powerful – but the overall impression is a long way from the ‘apotheosis of joy’ of the symphony’s subtitle. More like terror really.
The Triumphal Poem is similarly misnamed. After an opening flourish it is dominated by two tunes, the first light and chirpy with a sense of pastoral merry-making, the second a lovely cantabile melody that falls into clear stanzas and cries out for words of the long-lost-lover-over-the-hills variety. Both get a fuller, more triumphal, treatment later in the piece but in each case the glittery orchestration rides roughshod over tunes that are simple and unaffected.
Ippolitov-Ivanov’s Caucasian Sketches are charming miniatures that use the orchestra with restraint and sensitivity, something one could not really say of Khachaturian. The BBC Philharmonic handles both composers skilfully, balancing the extremes of one against the reticence of the other and making the most of the big tunes when they come round. Christopher Lambton