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Thread: Aram Khachaturyan (1903 - 1978)

  1. #16
    Senior Member confuoco's Avatar
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    So, well. Let's say that Khachaturian has really excellent orchestration (in my opinion one of the best ever), original and not tiring melodic ideas based on Armenian folk music, his works are colourful and sometimes witty. But his music is appropriate mainly for fun and rest and lacks depth (includings also pieces like Adagio frm Spartacus.). By no means he can be equalized with Shostakovich.

    Another thing that shadows his works is that he made much more works for the "comission" of soviet political regime than Shostakovich or Prokofiev. Even in his ballets the strong influence of socialist realism is present. One don't need to be specialist to hear it.

    Don't get me wrong, I like to listen Khachaturian. I thing his best work (from that works I know) is Violin concerto. It is good solved, interesting to listener, shifty. But can it be compared in its greatness and moral strenght to Violin concerto No. 1 or Cello concerto No. 1 by Shostakovich? Or to Violin concertos by Prokofiev in its invention? I think, definitely not. Maybe is just more tuneful and funny. I can't join your enjoyement for him and I think he isn't good enough to make some kind of "star triangle" with Prokofiev and Shostakovich.

  2. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by confuoco View Post
    Even in his ballets the strong influence of socialist realism is present.
    And what exactly is wrong with that?

  3. #18
    Senior Member confuoco's Avatar
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    Are you kidding? At least storylines...in Spartacus it is not so evident (but still present, slave, who leads some kind of revolution...don't mind, that choice of this story is an accident - there are evident similarities with working-class that didn't want to be as slaves of bourgeoisie and high-class anymore etc. I could say a lot of things around, but my english isn't good enough.) And Gayane? It is just a celebration of kolchoz and collectivization in USSR, that demnified so many people! And of course it reflects also in the music...sometimes you can hear formalism and disgusting pathos. I am sorry, but when somebody uses his talent for such a political propaganda (even if it is free and sincere), in my opinion it decreases the value of the work very significantly. It is a pity, because from some point of view these works are really excellent. I like listening to Spartacus, but I can't ignore these "shadows".

  4. #19
    Senior Member oisfetz's Avatar
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    Sure, Aram music is subversive and terrorist, and he composed it for the KGB. It
    should be banished. In particular the v.c. is clearly communist. Today,Aram would
    be in Guantanamo.

  5. #20
    Senior Member confuoco's Avatar
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    I don't want to blame or judge him...neverthless I think that works with such a backround aren't so precious. Namely I didn't mention works like Poem for Stalin. But even if I would forget and ignore all these things, and think only about music, still I am not sure to equal him to Prokofiev and Shostakovich. And please don't derogate socialism in USSR, maybe for some people from the "West" it is today something like funny curiosity, but I guess it was quite serious to many people.
    Last edited by confuoco; Sep-03-2008 at 13:17.

  6. #21
    Senior Member Tapkaara's Avatar
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    This is a difficult issue to address.

    Khachaturian was an ardent communist, there is no denying that. Works like Gayne, Spartacus, etc. definitely have communinst propoganda running through them.

    It's hard to say how much of the communism in Aram's work is his own, or was forced upon him. I think works like the piano concerto and violin concerto, which are pieces of pure music with no political undercurrents, are proof that the man was very capable of writing music for the sake of pure art and not for any political statement.

    While I do not deny Aram was a communist...nor do I in any way try to downplay the evils of communism...I think it's important to remember the environment in which all soviet composers lived. Shostakovich, Prokofiev and Khachaturian all had to tread carefully under Stalin. Thus, blatantly "pleasing" works like Spartacus were inevitable to keep your job...and perhaps your life.

    Confuoco, I wonder what you think of Wagner, then...given his less-than-favorable background.
    "Music is not philosophy." --Akira Ifukube

  7. #22
    Senior Member confuoco's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tapkaara View Post
    Confuoco, I wonder what you think of Wagner, then...given his less-than-favorable background.
    Rather don't ask me

    I agree that it is difficult and complicate issue. Again: I don't want to damn Khachaturian for that. But don't want to ignore these facts as well.

  8. #23
    Senior Member Tapkaara's Avatar
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    Khachaturian was a very kind soul who loved music and who loved people. His politics were way off but he was a naturally gifted composer...and one of my favorites.

    It's not always easy to look past negative points as salient as his connections to communism, but I am willing to try to look past them for the sake of taking in and relishing his musical gifts to the world.
    "Music is not philosophy." --Akira Ifukube

  9. #24
    Senior Member Tapkaara's Avatar
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    Gonna try to ressurect the Khachaturian thread here. He's one of my favorites. Truly a throw-back composer while every one around him was so concerned with the avant-garde. Khachy remained true to an idiom much like Borodin on steroids...

    I invite new discussions on this fantastic Soviet composer.
    "Music is not philosophy." --Akira Ifukube

  10. #25
    Senior Member Sid James's Avatar
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    Sure, he lived in the Soviet Union, but we must not forget that he was not really part of the Russian tradition, because he was Armenian. I'd compare him to Arvo Part, who is Estonian, a country which was once also dominated by the Soviets. Accepting this, we can see why his music can be sometimes seen as superficial or lacking in any real substance. It's different from anything else & of course, full of folk melodies & idioms of his country. He put his country on the map, musically speaking, just like Sibelius, Chavez & Villa-Lobos did to their respective countries. So I don't think he can be lumped in with Prokofiev & Shostakovich as really representing 'Soviet' or C20th Russian music.

    & I agree there is a political subtext to his music. Like Gayaneh, a glorification of the collective farm system, Spartacus which is partly about mass revolution, and even non programmatic works like the Violin Concerto, which won the Stalin Prize in the 1940's. Nevertheless, reception of his music by the Soviet authorities was not one-sided, and we must not forget that he was criticised in 1948, along with Prokofiev & Shostakovich, for being too 'formalist.' In particular, Stalin said that his music was decadent & Western.

    I think that Gayaneh is a masterpiece of the C20th ballet repertoire. Sure, it might lack the depth of the Stravinsky ballets, but who can forget the awesome Gayaneh's Adagio, which evokes so many things? (not surprisingly, it was used in Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyessy). Same can be said of the Adagio from Spartacus. So if one searches for it, there can be depth in his music.

  11. #26
    Senior Member Tapkaara's Avatar
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    Well, saying Khachaturian was a "soviet" composer is indeed acurate, if only 50% accurate. He made his living in the Soviet Union, so, by that virtue, he can certainly be considered a soviet composer. Of course, he was a native Armenian, and it's in the folk traditions of his ancestors where we find the real soul of his output. I think I saw somewhere where he was described as a Soviet/Armenian composer, and perhaps this is the moniker that fits best.

    Yes, Gayne is a masterpiece and one of my favorites by Khachaturian. It's so damn tuneful. Yes, it may lack some "depth" musically, but no one can deny its power on a very viceral level.
    "Music is not philosophy." --Akira Ifukube

  12. #27
    Senior Member confuoco's Avatar
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    I would be curious what do you think about his Piano concerto in D-flat major

  13. #28
    Senior Member Tapkaara's Avatar
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    Well, the piano concerto is one of my favorite piano concertos!

    It has a wonderful virtuosic part for the piano. It remains tuneful and gorgeously orchestrated throughout. I take it you enjoy it too, Confuoco?
    "Music is not philosophy." --Akira Ifukube

  14. #29
    Senior Member confuoco's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tapkaara View Post
    Well, the piano concerto is one of my favorite piano concertos!

    It has a wonderful virtuosic part for the piano. It remains tuneful and gorgeously orchestrated throughout. I take it you enjoy it too, Confuoco?
    Well, I think we have a lot of better piano concertos in the repertoir...but this Khachaturian concerto is so...funny . A true soviet show!

    The solo part is really virtuosic and the most percussive piano part I know. It evocates me xylophone play in many moments. Khachaturian also doesn't use dynamic contrast so much I think, especially in the third movement. The slow movement is more meditative, of course. Using flexatone in it is quite innovative, I guess.

  15. #30
    Senior Member Tapkaara's Avatar
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    It is a "show," this concerto. But that's why I love it. It's a romp across the keyboard that delivers many thrills and chills. Music that is a little like a carnival ride (such as this concerto) is good for the soul.
    "Music is not philosophy." --Akira Ifukube

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