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Review for GHCD 2427 - Anatole Fistoulari - Khachaturian 1952-1959

Audiophile Audition - April 2014

Guild resurrects classic Khachaturian repertory from the London and Everest label archives, as performed by conductor Anatole Fistoulari, 1952-1959. Fistoulari (1907-1995) began his musical life a child wunderkind, conducting a Tchaikovsky symphony the age of seven. He had reached the height of his career by the end of World War II, only to fade from the mainstream by slow degrees. Curiously, the present disc confirms his stereotype, allowing his purely orchestral leadership – with the LSO – only three ballet dances. Today, his repute rests as the accompanying conductor to a long line of esteemed soloists, from Ruggiero Ricci (1918-2012) to Moura Lympany (1916-2005), who collaborate with Fistoulari in these Khachaturian concerti. The concertos themselves most often invoke the names of David Oistrakh for the 1940 Violin Concerto and William Kapell and Oscar Levent for the 1936 Piano Concerto, though Moura Lympany gave the first performance of the latter outside of the Soviet Union, after its premier by Lev Oborin. Though pianist Clifford Curzon had been initially approached by conductor Alan Bush at the time, Curzon deferred to Moura, claiming, “She learns very quickly.” The Piano Concerto, rather over-wrought in the Tchaikovsky mode while laden with Armenian and Caucasian modalities, provides a fine vehicle for Lympany’s exercise (30 October and 1 November 1952) of bold virtuosity and suave intimacy. The inclusion of the weirdly sonorous flexatone in the second movement Andante con anime in a minor makes for fascinating listening. The glamorous movement assumes the quality of a sensuous dance from a science-fiction movie. The relentless ostinati and rhythmic dynamism of the last movement, Allegro brillante, may derive from the Prokofiev, whose First Concerto is written in the same key. The cyclical return of the first movement theme adds a dimension of classical economy to an essentially populist, rambunctious score. The coloration from the brass, battery, and woodwinds contributes to the frisky attraction of the proceedings, whipping their way to a frenetic climax. The Violin Concerto projects the more Armenian flavor of the two concertos, which in company with Ricci’s seamless execution (2-3 July 1956), produces effects both exotic and luxuriantly dreamy, rather in the manner of Borodin. Composer Dmitri Kabalevsky attributed the music’s individuality to a combination of Transcaucasian dances and the folk improvisations of the ashugs, Armenia’s bardic tradition. Ricci enjoys a particularly rich cadenza that serves to bridge the music to the recapitulation. The ashug influence emerges in the bassoon solo that opens the Andante sostenuto second movement. True to our expectations of the ever-gypsified Ricci, the last movement Allegro vivace offers him a festive rondo in dizzy figures, in which the second theme of the first movement once more cements the work in cyclical motion. The three dances from the 1942 ballet Gayaneh (2 November 1959) from an Everest stereo LP – Sabre Dance, Dance of the Rose Maidens, Lezginka – display the London Symphony’s perennial capacity for bravura colors. The Sabre Dance occupies its own space in both the classical and pop culture annals. If anyone can imitate Arthur Fiedler here, Fistoulari can. The Rose Maidens exploit Armenian hymnody – sharakans – in attractive, athletic colors, counterpointed. The Lezginka celebrates a betrothal, but its raw, folksy sonority beats a dervish rhythm that embraces rustic energy and erotic power.
Gary Lemco

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