CAN THAT WORK? NO ARROGANCE HERE PLEASE – IT CERTAINLY CAN! ANDREAS FRÖLICH AND THE ARMENIAN PHILHARMONIC OFFER PURE QUALITY.
How quickly one finds one’s own prejudices… Mozart piano concertos from Armenia? Anyone reaching for a good old Austro-German interpretation is really missing out on something. This Armenian Mozart is damn good! And that is not only due to the eternal solo insider tip Andreas Frölich with his accentuated, hyper- exact style that still manages to catch every emotion. It is particularly also because of the wonderfully fresh and alert musical style of the Armenian Philharmonic that leaves an impression of being cheeky and fresh under the direction of Eduard Topchjan even more so that the usual, perhaps slightly Mozart saturated orchestras. You notice that the Armenians have long studied the leading musical theories, without taking on their negative elements. I mean, here is an orchestra that actually has its own sound, which is something only rarely heard. Sirs, I take my hat off to you! These piano concertos show a deep understanding for Mozart’s work and are for me the most exciting thing to pop up in this field in many years. For anyone who doesn’t believe me, have a listen!
Die Diskographie von Andreas Frölich ist bislang geprägt von Kammermusik und Sololiteratur. Mit seinem neuesten Album hat er sich jetzt auf ein Terrain begeben, auf dem die Konkurrenz groß ist: Mozarts Klavierkonzerte. Taktisch geschickt, hat er sich dabei allerdings nicht auf die Schlachtrösser gestürzt, sondern zwei Werke ausgewählt, die nicht so sehr im Fokus stehen, dennoch aber die ganze Bandbreite dessen aufzeigen, was Mozart in dieser Gattung zuwege gebracht hat. Gut sechs Jahre liegen zwischen dem siebten Klavierkonzert und dem 13., das kurz nach Mozarts Ankunft in Wien entstanden ist. Hier treffen musikalisch zwei Welten aufeinander, die unterschiedliche interpretatorische Herangehensweise voraussetzen.
Sowohl der Solist als auch die begleitenden Armenier haben sich intensiv in die divergierenden Ausdruckswelten der beiden Stücke hineinversetzt und schaffen Wiedergaben von großer gestalterischer Stimmigkeit. Die Tempi in den Ecksätzen sind durchweg frisch, das Klangbild transparent. Details in Artikulation und Phrasierung sind sorgfältig aufeinander abgestimmt. Es herrscht ein entspanntes Musizieren, das dem heiteren Charakter sehr entspricht. Erwähnenswert ist das spieltechnische Niveau, auf dem das Orchester aus Armenien agiert. Das offenbart sich einmal mehr, wenn es aus der Rolle der Begleitcombo heraustritt und in den Ouvertüren zu „Figaros“ und „Don Giovanni“ eindrucksvoll demonstriert, dass es den Vergleich mit dem mitteleuropäischen Establishment nicht zu scheuen braucht.
This OehmsClassics all-Mozart disc features two fine piano concerti, K. 238 and K.415 together with the overtures to Le Nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni. K. 415 (1782) is notable for having the largest orchestra forces Mozart had employed up until that time. German pianist Andreas Frölich, concert artist, professor and member of the Mendelssohn Trio, Berlin, has an accumulated discography of close to three-dozen discs. Eduard Topchjan leads the Armenian Philharmonic.
Alexander Chaushian is on sparkling form of this highly enterprising and beautifully recorded CD, Khachaturian’s rarely heard. Concerto-Rhapsody is performed with tremendous conviction, but although this technical tour de force, originally written for Rostropovich, boasts some vintage melodic moments, the score is rather empty, with too much note-spinning. The darker hues of the Monograph for cello and orchestra by Suren Zakarian are far more convincing musically and receive an intensely imaginative performance from Chaushian. Inspired by the concept of the soul in conflict, the work deploys the cello in a high register with shimmering gentle clusters in the orchestral accompaniment. The emotional fervor increases with the cello incanting urgently before ebbing away in a lighter vein.
A similar use of harmonic clusters colours Vache Sharafyan’s suite, which with its ingenious allusions to the harmonic patterns and dance forms of the Baroque travels through a kaleidoscope of indecent timbres. Chaushian is again totally immersed in the vernacular and gives a searingly eloquent rendition. Equally enthralling is Sharafyan’s arrangement of Komitas’s Krunk (Crane) for duduk, piano and cello. As in the Suite, tonally conventional elements co-exist with the oscillating pitches and clusters of Sharafyan’s harmonic language to magical effect.
(Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Eduard Topchjan, BIS Records)
Aram Khachaturian: Rhapsody for cello and orchestra, Suren Zakaryan: Monograph for cello and orchestra, Vache Sharafyan: Suite for cello and orchestra, Komitas: Krounk
Soloist: Alexander Chaushian, cello
Conductor: Eduard Topchjan
One is in mysterious territory from the very first notes of Khachaturian Concerto-Rhapsody. This single-movement work, dating from 1963 and written for Rostropovich, positively drips with the intonation of the Armenia of the composer’ s ancestors- he was actually born in Georgia –though the anonymous notes for this new recording claim that it is in fact less Armenian in spirit than many of his other works. Whatever the case, it is one of those works that clearly has a dimension that relates to extra-European dimension folk traditions at some level, and this is certainly brought out by this powerful playing of Alexander Chaushian. Though it is not heard in concert with any great frequency, there are a number of other fine recordings of this work including more than one by its dedicatee. The couplings here are unique, however; indeed anyone with the slightest interest in twentieth -century music from this remarkable country should not hesitate to invest in this disc.
What the music of Suren Zakarian (b.1956) and Vache Sharafyan (b. 1966) have in common with that of Khachaturian, different though their musical languages are, is a powerful intensity. Zakaryan’s Monograph is a dark, brooding work built from the exploration of the interval of a second, and displaying a tremendously subtle handling of texture and colour. The title of Sharafyan’s for-movement Suite for cello and orchestra is perhaps misleading: it’s a substantial work that, while certainly evoking dance in the middle of two movements, is a long- breathed meditation on the passing of time, as the names of the first and last movements, “Mattinata” and “Postero die” (“the following day”), indicate. Its language is less abrasive than that of Zakarian, but it shares a brooding, mystical quality that suites the cello perfectly.
An arrangement of an arrangement closes this evocative collection. Sharafyan has taken a version of the old Armenian love song Krunk (Crane), made by the revered Komitas, and reworked it for the duduk, the national instrument, solo cello and piano. It’s hauntingly lovely, the perfect ending to this excellently performed and beautifully recorded anthology of rhapsodies.
This beautifully performed concert with cellist Alexander Chaushian includes a new work by Vache Sharafyan and also Monograph, an exquisite chamber work by Suren Zaqaryan that begins with an extraordinary three minute piece of free association for cello. Armenian music was never better served.
Cellist Alexander Chaushian is a wonderful artist with excellent technique and musicianship, conveying a wide range of emotions and styles of music. The Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Eduard Topchjan is an excellent accompaniment to the cellist, equally capable of evoking many emotions through their technically solid and artistically superior musicianship. Arguably the most enjoyable work on the album is Khachaturian‘s Concerto-Rhapsody, with its lush orchestral beginning that gives way to a cello solo which is rather like, unusually, a cadenza at the beginning of the work. One hears a distinctly non-European tonality (somewhat like Indian classical music) with haunting melodies and a repeated, pleading motif throughout the work. It is emotionally stirring, and both the orchestra and soloist bring out strong dynamic and stylistic contrasts. The orchestra manages to play precisely, and yet the sound is still lyrical and smooth.Chaushian is as agile as a violinist, for he makes the cello seem effortless. Suren Zakarian‘s piece for cello and chamber orchestra is quite a contrast to Khachaturian‘s. From the beginning, with its long, tense, highly vibrated notes, the listener is unclear about the tonality. It’s almost disconcerting, even after the orchestra enters. The orchestra plays a drone tone behind the cello, and sometimes this is quite a trial to hear. Zakarian is working with tone colors and moods, alternating passages where the cello is allowed to sing out (this is quite nice to hear), and low, murky, dark passages. This is no reflection on the musicians, but rather a comment on the accessibility of the piece. The same could be said for moments in Vache Sharafyan‘s Suite for cello and orchestra, where sometimes the cello line is so entwined with the orchestra in the first movement that it is hard to hear, and it can sound rather cacophonous. However, the second movement features light, ethereal strings and a liquid, singing cello, and the third movement, a Sarabande, allows the cello to become impassioned and then dramatically drops into silence. The final piece on the album, Krunk (Crane), is fascinating; it introduces the woodwind instrument called the duduk. The entrancing, mysterious beginning creates a sense of melancholy that pervades the work, and the three voices intertwine so smoothly, shimmering. So while some of the music may not be to everyone’s taste, it is still a wonderful album with unquestionably excellent musicians showcasing the best of their culture. ~ V.
This uplifting performance of Khachaturian’s Violin Concerto, one of the undoubted masterpiece of the 20th century repertoire, comes from musicians associated with the composer’s homeland. The Armenian orchestra’s playing is stylish and rhythmically finessed, with some especially beguiling woodwind. Eduard Topchjan keeps his forces admirably controlled, allowing space for the violin soloist to shine. There are vibrant and vital passages for the orchestral strings, especially after the soloist’s cadenza – launched by an exquisite dialogue with the clarinet- and in the Andante sostenuto, where middle strings play plaintively above pizzicato cellos and double basses.
Canadian-born Catherine Manoukian is an eloquent exponent of this appetising work. Her tone is pure, with nicely understated vibrato, and her playing throughout is gorgeously expressive. The gentle lilt of Khachaturian’s high-flying melodic lines, not least in the berceuse-like Andante, comes across almost effortlessly„ as if the violin were floating on an oriental carpet of air, swayed here and there by gentle breezes, until the spirited finale calls forth a more vigorous tone. All in all, a scintillatingly good performance, splendidly captured.
The Shostakovich begins in sombre vein, with atmospheric orchestral strings. The first movement, shrouded in mystery, is brilliantly sustained. The solo line comes over admirably, not least when engaging in sad dialogue with dark lower woodwind. A gutsy Scherzo follows, before the intense, varied Passacaglia, to which Manoukian’s involvement and restraint lend added power. The prolonged cadenza is superbly executed and the jaunty closing Burlesque is brilliantly played. All in all, an exciting, beautifully recorded disc.
“The ensemble proved to be a warm-toned, well-disciplined, highly capable body, with, in particular, a string section of burnished tonal sheen.”
The New York Post
“The glory of the orchestra is its string section… This was rich, colorful,fullthroated sound, a choir of sound.”
The Boston Globe
“The repertoire was obviously chosen to show the orchestra’s strengths … it plays Shostakovich and the rest of its program with enormous impact.”
The Washington Post