Monday, June 20, 2016
Avram Il'yich Khachaturian, Symphony No.2, "The Bell," Yablonsky, Russian Philharmonic Orchestra
Khachaturian (1903-1978) describes the symphony as a "requiem of wrath, a requiem of protest against war and violence" (liners). The nickname of the symphony derives from its tubular bell part that enters the matrix several times during the work. It is, given the subject matter, very expressive and unsettled music, with much dramatic impact, certainly worthy of taking its place with the Shostakovitch and Prokofiev symphonies of the period, though with perhaps not quite the thematic brilliance of the others. Nonetheless it is a completely satisfying work, an extroverted dirge that cries out in protest with the full resources of the modern orchestra.
A bonus on this disk are several excerpts from Khachaturian's "Lermontov Suite" (1959), which he initially wrote as incidental music for Boris Lavrenyov's play about the playwright-poet in 1954. It is perhaps not quite at the level of the symphony, but nonetheless gives us some good moments and does not detract from the overall effect and high level of performance on the program as a whole.
Russian modern aficionados will doubtless want to savor this fine recording of a somewhat neglected symphony. It is very worthwhile. Kudos to Yablonsky and the Russian Philharmonic.