LISTSERV mailing list manager LISTSERV 16.0

Help for CLASSICAL Archives


CLASSICAL Archives

CLASSICAL Archives


CLASSICAL@COMMUNITY.LSOFT.COM


View:

Message:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Topic:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Author:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

Font:

Proportional Font

LISTSERV Archives

LISTSERV Archives

CLASSICAL Home

CLASSICAL Home

CLASSICAL  May 2009

CLASSICAL May 2009

Subject:

Dreaming of Armenia

From:

Steve Schwartz <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 7 May 2009 19:36:26 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (125 lines)

Richard Yardumian
Orchestral Music

*  Violin Concerto (1949, rev. 1960/1985)
*  Symphony #2, "Psalms" (1949, rev. 1964)*
*  Armenian Suite (1937, rev. 1954)

Alexandr Bulov, violin
Nancy Maultsby, mezzo*
Singapore Symphony Orchestra/Lan Shui
BIS BIS-CD-1232 Total Time: 66:25

Summary for the Busy Executive: Psalmist from Philly.

Born, grown up, and dead in the environs of Philadelphia, Richard
Yardumian buckled down to composition relatively late, in his twenties,
encouraged by figures like Stokowski and Iturbi.  He had very few contacts
in the places it would have done him the most good, like New York or
London.  His music got disseminated mainly through recording, almost
exclusively by Ormandy and the Philadelphia and later, Anshel Brusilow,
Ormandy's former concertmaster.  Yardumian also picked up the advocacy
of John Ogdon and Gerald Abraham.  Unfortunately, he remains a somewhat
of a cult figure, out of joint with his time, something that probably
bothered him.

His music, dissonant although modal, religious in inspiration, ran
counter to the anti-religious, pro-technical sentiments of the musically
influential.  More than once, he called Bach his favorite composer, and
when he discussed music, it was usually in terms of analogies to the
cosmos.  He also had the misfortune to create his own dodecaphonic system,
generated by the alternation of major and minor (or minor and major)
thirds up and down the piano keys - in other words, something very close
to the octatonic scale, and thus tonally based.  I remember one writer
(probably British, but after so many decades, I'm not sure) who threw a
fit over this.  "How DARE he?" the critic thundered, as if Yardumian had
done so for the sole purpose of supplanting Schoenberg, and thus the
reviewer missed the point of any system, which is not the system itself,
but what it allows the composer to create.

Yardumian's music exhibits a certain roughness, awkwardness even. You
can't him imagine writing something like Stravinsky's "Dumbarton Oaks"
Concerto or Ravel's Introduction and Allegro.  He created only a very
slim catalogue, and he often took years to get a piece into its final
form - true of every work on this program.  However, he has a very high
proportion of winners.  At his frequent best, he achieves a beautiful
nobility of expression, sometimes epic, sometimes meditative, similar
to Ernest Bloch, although you can easily differentiate between the two.

The Armenian Suite, the earliest piece on the program, shows Yardumian's
initial influences, mainly Prokofiev, Bloch, and, surprisingly,
Rimsky-Korsakov.  It began as a single piano piece and grew to an
orchestrated, multi-movement suite.  Ormandy asked for a new ending,
thinking that Yardumian's original, though fine as a movement in itself,
lacked the necessary "wow" factor for a finale, and Yardumian obliged.
The movements - songs and dances - take either traditional Armenian tunes
or Armenian-inspired ones original with Yardumian.  The fast movements
in general use bright sonorities, the slow movements more muted ones.

The violin concerto originally consisted of the first movement only.
A second movement appeared in 1960.  At Ormandy's insistence, Yardumian
also added a fast finale, and Ormandy recorded this version with Brusilow
as soloist.  The problem was that the finale, though full of interesting
ideas, was over in the blink of an eye.  It seemed tacked on.  Yardumian
revised the finale yet again, expanding it, teasing out the implications
of its themes.  I consider it now one of the great American violin
concerti.

In 1947, Yardumian wrote a setting for tenor and orchestra of Psalm
130, De Profundis, which Ormandy and the Philadelphia recorded.  Years
later, Ormandy asked for a symphony as well something for contralto Lili
Chookasian, with whom he wanted to work.  Yardumian rewrote his De
Profundis and added a second movement, nearly twice as long as the first,
with more psalms for texts.  Chookasian was that rare commodity, a true
contralto, rather than a mezzo with low notes, and this seemed to have
inspired the composer, who came up with a part that exploited her huge
range and rich vocal color.  The symphony, however, can impress a listener
as extremely loose.  Not only does it threaten to break down into
individual psalms, it's hard for performers to find the structural thread
and keep it going.  Much of the work's coherence depends not only on the
conductor, but on the soloist, who has a huge solo cadenza made up of
the work's principal ideas.  But even in a loose performance, the power
of the symphony comes across.  To me, there's nothing else like it,
either in structure or in mood.  Yardumian takes huge risks, and they
pay off.  What we get is the voice of the Psalmist.

All the music on this CD has received other recordings.  Recordings
exist somewhere of Ormandy and the Philadelphia doing not only the
Armenian Suite and the Symphony, but the original Psalm 130 and the
Armenian Suite.  Chookasian, the Utah Symphony, and Varujan Kojian
recorded the symphony, as well as the Armenian Suite (see my review).
It's time for recording companies to move on through Yardumian's catalogue
and give us the Symphony #1, Cantus animae et cordis, Missa "Come, Creator
Spirit," the Chorale Prelude, and his masterpiece The Story of Abraham,
an oratorio that sums up and crowns the composer's artistic achievement.

Frankly, I saw the words "Singapore Symphony Orchestra," and my heart
sank as I conjured up the Firesign Theater's "Musical Heritage Surplus
Club of Hong Kong" - a quick route to a quick buck or, more likely, the
last resort of an enthusiast with not-enough money to get the music
recorded by anybody decent.  Boy, was I wrong! I admit my mistake.  These
readings overall are the best I've heard, surpassing even an old hand
like Ormandy, which is saying something.  The playing is crisp, the
sonics clear.  Of the three recordings of the symphony I've heard, this
reading coheres most without sacrificing any of the score's considerable
drama.  Lan Shui may let you see the Legos that Yardumian manipulates,
but he also builds a compelling narrative.  Mezzo Nancy Maultsby hasn't
Chookasian's monumental vocal quality and she has occasional intonation
skews.  Since she sings all by herself a lot of the time, this could
cause problems when the orchestra enters, but she's never far enough out
to make you cringe.  It's an incredibly difficult part.  Chookasian
mastered it over the years.  Maultsby does a fine, credible job,
nevertheless.  The Armenian Suite throws off sparks.  The Violin Concerto
is the only CD recording of this work and the only recording of the final
version.  Simply on the level of performance, it compares well to Brusilow
and Ormandy, although Brusilow plays with more blood than Bulov does.
On the other hand, Bulov plays cleaner.  It's not really a matter of
preferring one over the other but of appreciating two fine accounts.

Steve Schwartz

             ***********************************************
The CLASSICAL mailing list is powered by L-Soft's renowned LISTSERV(R)
list management software together with L-Soft's HDMail High Deliverability
Mailer for reliable, lightning fast mail delivery.  For more information,
go to:  http://www.lsoft.com/LISTSERV-powered.html

Top of Message | Previous Page | Permalink

Advanced Options


Options

Log In

Log In

Get Password

Get Password


Search Archives

Search Archives


Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Subscribe or Unsubscribe


Archives

May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
February 2002
January 2002
December 2001
November 2001
October 2001
September 2001
August 2001
July 2001
June 2001
May 2001
April 2001
March 2001
January 2001
December 2000
November 2000
October 2000
September 2000
August 2000
July 2000
June 2000
May 2000
April 2000
March 2000
February 2000
January 2000
December 1999
November 1999
October 1999
September 1999
August 1999
July 1999
June 1999
May 1999
April 1999
March 1999
February 1999
January 1999
July 1997

ATOM RSS1 RSS2



COMMUNITY.LSOFT.COM

Secured by F-Secure Anti-Virus CataList Email List Search Powered by the LISTSERV Email List Manager