Violin Concerto (Khachaturian)

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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.[1] 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.[2]

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).

Instrumentation[edit]

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.

Movements[edit]

The concerto consists of three movements with the following tempo markings:

  1. Allegro con fermezza
  2. Andante sostenuto
  3. Allegro vivace

Allegro con fermezza[edit]

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. The movement is in common time although there are extended sections in 3/4. The overall key is d minor. The technical demands of this music are considerable.

Andante sostenuto[edit]

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. The movement is in 3/4 time although common time appears in phases. The overall key is a minor. The general tone of this andante is dark, often threatening, sometimes sad and sometimes angry, especially at the two orchestral climaxes. The second climax then fades away into nothing over a descending scale by the woodwinds over a held G-sharp violin note, which sounds like a semitone away from true.

Allegro vivace[edit]

In contrast to the second movement, this one is energetic and enthusiastic. Like many of the classical violin concertos, this one is in the parallel major i.e. D major. The tempo marking is Allegro vivace, 3/8 but the real feel is 6/8 and Presto. Unlike the first two movements, the rhythm remains almost constant throughout. The structure is rondo and the main theme (which comes after a longish orchestral introduction) is derived from an Armenian dance tune. The second melodic subject, which comes after an exuberant transition passage, is the same as the lyrical second theme from the first movement, now reworked to fit the new beat and given urgency and forward drive by a thumping string accompaniment. The third theme features nonstop semiquaver runs and leads back to a reprise of the main tune. A transitional passage then takes us to the coda, which starts with the main theme again but transposed and in rapidly shifting keys. After a vast circle of modulations the music finally comes in for landing on D.

The considerable length of the movement (approximately 450 bars of 6/8 or 900 of 3/8) together with the almost ceaseless semiquaver motion make this one of the most challenging works in the solo violin repertoire.

Notable recordings[edit]

NB: More recent recordings from notable living artists exist, but not listed here to avoid commercials.

References[edit]

  • David Oistrakh - Discussions with Igor Oistrakh by V. Yuzefovitch Moscow, USSR 1977
  • Leonid Kogan - Reflections, Letters, Interviews Moscow, USSR 1987
  • Russian Culture Navigator

Notes[edit]

External links[edit]