Violin Concerto (Khachaturian)
Aram Khachaturian's Violin Concerto in D minor was completed in 1940 and dedicated to the Russian violinist David Oistrakh, who premièred the concerto in Moscow on September 16, 1940. Oistrakh advised Khachaturian on the composition of the solo part and also wrote his own cadenza that markedly differs from the one originally composed by Khachaturian. The concerto was initially well received and awarded the Stalin Prize for arts in 1941. The work became a staple of the 20th century violin repertoire, and maintains its popularity into the 21st century.
French flautist Jean-Pierre Rampal transcribed the piece for flute in 1968, with encouragement from Khachaturian. Rampal's transcription included a different cadenza in the first movement, but Rampal otherwise strove to adhere to Khachaturian's original.
The Violin Concerto was the second of three concertos Khachaturian wrote for the individual members of a renowned Soviet piano trio that performed together from 1941 until 1963. The others were: the Piano Concerto for Lev Oborin (1936); and the Cello Concerto for Sviatoslav Knushevitsky (1946).
The work is scored for solo violin and an orchestra consisting of one piccolo, two flutes, two oboes, one English horn, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, tuba, timpani, tambourine, piccolo snare, cymbals, bass drum, harp and strings.
The concerto consists of three movements with the following tempo markings:
- Allegro con fermezza
- Andante sostenuto
- Allegro vivace
Allegro con fermezza
As with most concertos, the first movement is in sonata form and begins with a brief orchestral introduction, followed by the entrance of the soloist with the initial theme. The solo violin then introduces the lyrical second theme, marked espressivo, with responses from the woodwinds. A brief cadenza precedes the development section, which prominently features the soloist in several virtuoso passages. A second longer cadenza begins with a quiet duet between the solo violin and clarinet, but soon becomes more animated. The recapitulation of the principal themes leads to a brief coda, based upon the motif of the initial theme.
After an introduction featuring the bassoon and clarinet, the soloist enters with the movement's principal melody. The movement is notable for its variety of moods and the wide-ranging, highly expressive writing for the soloist. Toward the close, the soloist repeats the principal melody, but now played an octave lower, and with a 'dolce clarinet obbligato. After a dramatic orchestral outburst, the movement reaches its conclusion, as the violin's final sustained notes are supported by the horn and muted upper strings, along with descending passages in the flute, bassoon, harp and pizzicato lower strings.
A lively orchestral fanfare sets the stage for the soloist's introduction of the central theme of the finale, which is based on the second theme from the first movement. The movement is in rondo form but is heavily influenced by Armenian folk music and is reminiscent of a country dance.
- (1954, mono recording) David Oistrakh (violin), Philharmonia Orchestra, Aram Khachaturian (conductor);
- (1970s, live recording) Jean Ter-Merguerian (violin), Armenian State Symphony Orchestra, Michael Malountian (conductor);
- (1956) Ruggiero Ricci (violin), London Philharmonic Orchestra, Anatole Fistoulari (conductor) - Decca;
- Leonid Kogan (violin), Boston Symphony Orchestra, Pierre Monteux (conductor) - RCA Victor;
- Ida Haendel (violin), Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart, Hans Muller-Kray (conductor) - Hanssler;
- Itzhak Perlman (violin), Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Zubin Mehta (Conductor) - EMI;
- Sergey Khachatryan (violin), Sinfonia Varsovia, Emmanuel Krivine (conductor) - Naive;
- Julia Fischer (violin), Russian National Orchestra, Yakov Kreizberg (conductor) - Pentatone;
- Arabella Steinbacher (violin), Sakari Oramo (conductor), Birmingham Symphony Orchestra - Orfeo
- David Oistrakh - Discussions with Igor Oistrakh by V. Yuzefovitch Moscow, USSR 1977
- Leonid Kogan - Reflections, Letters, Interviews Moscow, USSR 1987
- Russian Culture Navigator