YR3 Week7: Aram Khatchaturian - Violin Concerto; Norah Jones



Angel Records Recording. Printed in the U.S.A // Aram Khachaturian (1903-1978) // Violin Concerto in D Minor (1940) // Eugene Goossens conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra. Soloist: Igor Oistrakh

Violin Concerto in D Minor

  • Allegro con fermezza 

  • Andante sostenuto

  • Allegro vivace

Bring you no word from home, oh Crane, 
I left my garden and my home, 
My heart burns like fire.
Wait, oh Crane, your cry, 
Is music to my ears. 
“” from an armenian folk song, “Krunk” (The Crane)

The Violin Concerto’s melodic wealth contributed to its success no less than its integrated form and striking dramatic principles. Instrumental singing has long been on of the basic traditions of Russian and Soviet violin playing. All the virtuoso violin sections of the Concerto as well as the orchestral accompaniment are very melodious. But the themes themselves are the most captivating. Its overall sound is based on Armenian folk songs and dance tunes. “” victor yuzefovich, Aram Khachaturyan 

it was on instagram that i first came upon an excerpt from the third movement of this violin concerto, it was the biggest sound i’ve ever heard an orchestra produce, not the kind of thing you scroll gingerly by; bohemian in its melodies, classical in its scale and structure, an explosion in the brass factory. the eruption of the main theme at the top of the Allegro con fermezza is the force that drives the next forty minutes of a furiously ballistic dialogue between soloist and orchestra (especially with a high-pitched brass section featuring a duo of trumpets with cup mutes). aram khachaturian was an armenian composer who for more of his life was on very friendly terms with the soviet union, save for a brief period when he was roped in with the likes of shostakovich and prokofiev for being ‘anti-people’. he was also the author of the armenian national anthem while that country was behind the iron curtain (1944-1991), and is the most celebrated armenian composer of the last century. the characteristically ‘russian’ element in his music is not the russia of moscow and tchaikovsky, but more southern and more eastern, embedding eastern-european and middle-eastern folk music traditions into the musical education he obtained from the Moscow Conservatory. 


Oistrakh said he would like to hear the Concerto and invited me to his country home. I played it for him, trying for some degree of synthesis——I would play the harmony with my left hand and the violin part with my right, singing some of the cantilena parts and the violin melody with the entire accompaniment. Oistrakh carefully followed the score. He liked the Concerto and asked me to leave it with him. We agreed to meet again in a few days. “” aram khachaturian 

the Violin Concerto was the composer’s second major work, building on the success of his Piano Concerto from four years prior. the work is the product of something of a workshop between the composer and a prominent violinist igor oistrakh (son of the even more renowned violinist david oistrakh), and doing for this Concerto what jascha heifetz did for sibelius’ Violin Concerto...

In about two or three days, Oistrakh came to Staraya Ruza to play the Concerto. My little cottage was full of people. It was summer and the door to the porch was open. Many friends were there--composers and musicians. All those present, myself included, were astonished by Oistrakh’s enchanting performance. He played the Concerto as though he had been practicing it for months, just as he was to play it subsequently on the concert stage. “” aram khachaturian

the first and second movements, though impressive on their own, can be alternatively understood as a stocking up of ammunition for the Allegro vivace. the first movement is a veritable clinic for discarded phrases on strings, revived and employed as tinder for the final movement. it begins with the explosive first subject, a hopping danceable rhythm on the solo instrument giving way to the slower more lamentative subject that stretches for most of the musical material of the first movement. the first movement alone makes space for three extended cadenzas, the last and longest of which is a mangling of the second subject till is escapes as the the first subject and the locomotive comes to a crashing halt. the soloist develops as if to sharpen the contrast between the second and third movements, the middle Andante sostenuto is a nocturnal procession of thick grazing clouds out of which the soloist threads the occasional melody like weak and distant lightning. the second movement’s main theme is sung on bassoon and repeated on clarinet while a gong-like steady beat is maintained by double basses; the soloist makes an entrance to develop on the subject while the viola section intermittently interject that theme throughout. how it is any orchestra can transition, within seconds, from the quietude and relative order of the second movement to the topsy-turvy pandemonium of the Allegro, is beyond me. What’s especially unique is how delocalized the tension is across the orchestra, no one section remains in the background while the others keep pace with the soloist——the main culprit in the scenery is the piccolo’s high pitch. you can hear it at the very top of the chaos, like steam whistling out of an icy kettle...

The entire score is fasticidously measured with a composer’s fine ear. And yet the music, particularly the violin part, so virtuoso yet to cantilena, creates the impression that the soloist is improvising. The Concerto, possibly more than any of his other works, gives on the feeling of soaring above the earth. As you hear the music you find yourself visualizing a flowering jubilant Armenia bathed in sunlight. “” victor yuzefovich, Aram Khachaturyan 

(song of the week: Just a Little Bit —— norah jones)

Oh, hey you
Get over here, oh
If you should ruin what I've become
You'll be sorry that you thought I was the one

just how much tenderness can be managed in telling someone that you’re not the one? that’s perhaps the subject of concern in the seventh song of the seventh studio album by norah jones, Begin Again——for me, the title is something of an answer to that question. i’ve been enjoying something of a rediscovery of jones this year. having found too many of her cd’s in the impulse-buy section of a Starbucks checkout, i think i’ve subconsciously relegated her to the realm of that lady that wrote ‘Come Away With Me’. but of course she’s that and much more: for example, her cover of kate mcgarrigle’s Talk to Me of Mendocino has been one of those exceptional discoveries in music in the last year. 

 Get out of here
Oh, I'm not the one you can dismiss
I'm here forever
I found my bliss

i guess Begin Again is her jazz album? the fulfillment of that compulsory stylistic excursion every singer-songwriter must make——the equivalent of a b-list comedian’s leather-jacket-special, an edgy and sultry tell-all. but perhaps because its norah jones there’s as much sincerity in it as there are sultry trumpet solos. Just a Little Bit begins on keyboards, first with what sounds like an organ/synthesizer thing layered beneath a simple piano melody twinkling in the middle distance like a mirage. from there enters a softly muted trumpet above a flabby saxophone accompaniment, with a persistent sizzling note on synthesizer. on top of it all, jones’s voice enters the foreground, in sync with a flat matted beat on drums. the rest is bliss and fodder for some hallway-mirror-milly-rocking.