1894, 1947, 1950, 1994, Music

Symphony No. 3 “Simfoniya-poema”; Triumphal Poem / Caucasian Sketches (1994) by BBC Philharmonic conducted by Fedor Glushchenko

This is a bizarre pairing of a Khachaturian symphony, one of his symphonic poems and an orchestral suite from another Russian composer from the 1890s. The fact that they don’t sound so out of place together suggests how conservative Khachaturian was as a 20th century composer.

I have heard the Triumphal Poem before, though I’m not sure where. (In a movie probably, as Khachaturian is a favourite of Hollywood.) It’s big and bombastic like much of Khachaturian’s music, and generally lacking in subtlety. It is catchy, though. I remember it from whenever I heard it before. Catchy, obvious, easy like so much of Khachaturian’s music.

The first Caucasian Sketches is a moody late Romantic piece with strong melodies and lots of martial influences. It’s not Mussorgsky, but it does offer similar pleasures, in perhaps more muted doses. It’s not bad. It’s actually pretty decent given that I’ve never heard of the guy before.

Khachaturian’s final symphony apparently started out as a symphonic poem but was converted to a “symphony” for some reason. To my ears it sounds more like a mutated or bastardized organ concerto rather than a “symphonic poem.” It is far and away the most interesting piece of music I’ve heard from Khachaturian to date and maybe that explains why it was condemned by the Soviet authorities. If more of Khachaturian’s music was like this – unusual, innovative and surprising – I wouldn’t find most of his music such a slog.

This is an odd collection of pieces that don’t exactly fit together well. But some of the music is quite good.

6/10

  1. Triumphal Poem 18:34
  2. Caucasian Sketches: Suite No. 1, Op. 10: No. 1. In the Mountain Pass 10:14
  3. Caucasian Sketches: Suite No. 1, Op. 10: No. 2. In the Village 5:34
  4. Caucasian Sketches: Suite No. 1, Op. 10: No. 3. In the Mosque 4:28
  5. Caucasian Sketches: Suite No. 1, Op. 10: No. 4. Procession of the Sardar 5:01
  6. Symphony No. 3, “Simfoniya-poema” 24:55

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