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“Probably thirst for “concerto” music, for the colorful-virtuoso style is inherent to my creative individuality. I am fond of the task of creating a composition where the cheerful principle of free competition between a virtuoso-soloist and a symphony orchestra prevail.”

Aram Khachaturian.

Aram Khachaturian’s three concertos – the Piano Concerto, the Violin Concerto and the Cello Concerto – take up a prominent place in the national concerto music.
Two of them – the Violin and the Piano concertos – contributed very much to the determination of the trend of this genre in the 20th century and set an example for many composers. The Cello Concerto, created in 1968 and dedicated to Knushevitsky, takes up a comparatively less significant place in the history of music. However, it rather substantially complements the idea of Khachaturian as the composer-symphonist.

Piano Concerto

The Piano Concerto was written in 1936 and performed for the first time in July 12, 1937 in Moscow, in Sokolniki by a distinguished pianist Lev Oborin and the orchestra conducted by L.Steinberg. This work turned to be rather considerable in the Soviet music. Critics wrote about the triumphal procession of the Concerto that proved to be “a real festivity of the piano creative work,” one of the most “repertoire” works at the world concert stages.
Khachaturian’s Piano Concerto is an innovatory composition. Having developed traditions of the concerto style of List, Chaikovsky, Rakhmaninov, Ravel, and Prokofiev, Khachaturian initiated new trends in the development of this genre, in the interpretation of its form, composition and thematic character. “However, – said the composer, – the modesty of the texture of the 2nd part of my Piano Concerto, while auditioned by Sergei Prokofiev, evoked his teasing remark: ‘So what will then the pianist be doing, loafing?’”
The Concerto is full of remarkable, expressive, beautiful, and characteristically diverse musical themes. It traces back with its deepest origins to the different types of the Orient music. Courageous and lyrical, thoughtful and humorous, singing and dancing, tenderly fascinating or fiery-temperament, they fill the music with realistic imagery, natural character and unique features of Khachaturian’s style.
The Concerto is dedicated to Lev Oborin, its first performer. Here are the pianist’s reminiscences about it:
“Our creative fellowship has begun with the performance of the Concerto. The author has dedicated this work to me and I gratefully consider it to be the estimation of my first performance of this concerto. The Piano Concerto is one of Khachaturian’s best compositions. It quickly visited the major stages of our country and won recognition abroad. I think one could not name any distinguished pianist whose repertoire does not include this work. It is equally loved both by the senior conductors and by the youth.
What attracts me to this music? It must be the powerful temperament, originality, and the exquisite virtuosity of parts of the soloing instrument and the orchestra which is characteristic for his entire creative work:. I dare say that Khachaturian’s Piano Concerto is one of the few contemporary works of this genre which are true concertos, not just pieces for the piano with orchestra. There is grandiosity, vivid sharp opposition and competition between the soloist and the orchestra…”

Violin Concerto

Khachaturian never concealed his partiality towards the violin. It is sufficient to say that all the best themes from his compositions are mainly associated with violin or cello.
In the summer of 1940, in the “Rouza” House of Creativity of the Composers’ Union, while surrounded by the marvelous Russian nature, Khachaturian wrote one of his best compositions – Violin Concerto – which took him two and a half months. “I was writing it with strong enthusiasm. I was overflowing with musical ideas, surpassing the speed of their writing on the note paper,” – recalls the composer.
The structure of Violin Concerto does not seem to have specific innovations. The whole strength of the emotional effect of the work lies right in its themes, in the generous and unusually expressive melos.
In the autumn of the same year, on September 16th, the composition was performed in Moscow during the Days of the Soviet music. It was performed by the young, yet prominent violinist David Oistrakh (the Concerto is dedicated to him).
“Never would I forget the festive party in the newly-built P.I.Tchaikovsky Hall, where the premiere took place… – recalled the violinist. – Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Myaskovsky… were among the audience in the hall. I clearly remember the summer day of 1940, when A.Khachaturian came to our residence in the country. He was so seized by his new composition that dashed to the grand piano right away. Playing with his inherent ardor and inspiration he fascinated all of us. The music seemed to be sparkling – sincere, original, witty, full of melodic beauty and national coloring. All these features, the Concerto still gladdens listeners with, produced then unforgettable impression. A new outstanding work was obviously born and would have to live a great life at the concert stage.
My violin was destined to put the beginning of this life. Soon I got a sample of the Concerto I began to work at. The premiere took place in 1940 in Moscow in the Tchaikovsky Hall. It was conducted by A.V.Gauk; he was interpreting Khachaturian’s music with inherent temperament and sincerity – this great musician.
All the amateurs of music highly appreciated the Concerto. It was performed twice for a short period, having won everyone with its festive nature, live impulse, characteristic for Khachaturian’s whole creative work. One can say for sure that this work did leave nobody indifferent. During the World War II, Khachaturian’s Violin Concerto was already broadly known and it frequently sounded on the radio, helping endure distresses with its vivid character, vital energy, and strengthening the belief in the future and the victory…”
Khachaturian’s Concerto, as interpreted by Oistrakh, made an enormous impression on the audience and won them on the spot. The destiny of Violin Concerto was determined on the day of its premiere. Its popularity grew day by day at a phenomenal speed. The work soon won the world recognition. Nowadays, proceeding his victorious procession at foreign stages, it is included in the repertoire of the world’s best violinists. It underwent a great number of records on disc in many countries of the world.

Cello Concerto

Khachaturian’s idea of the creation of the Cello concerto arose when he was studying cello at the Musical College.
However, the composer managed to fulfill his dream only twenty years later, when he had already authored the well-known Violin and Piano concertos.
The concerto for cello with the orchestra was written in 1946. The author dedicated the Cello concerto to Svyatoslav Knushevitsky, its first performer. The premiere took place in the autumn of the same year in the Great Hall of the conservatory. Knushevitsky conducted the work masterfully and with a great artistry; however, the Concerto made an incomplete impression. The Concerto, unfortunately, was not properly appreciated by the audience, though it was full of expressive themes, prominent symphonic development and richness of harmonic colours.
Khachaturian’s Cello Concerto is a lyric poem, saturated with the spirit of folk songs. In the intonation-rhythmic development of the themes-melodies, Khachaturian introduced original features of the folk art of ashougs and sazandars that fill the music of the Concerto with unique beauty of the national peculiarity.
Surely Khachaturian’s Cello concerto in the context of composition is mostly similar to the recently written Piano and especially Violin Concertos. However, in the matter of style it is closer to symphonic works such as the ballet “Gayane”, “Symphony with a Bell”.
On the whole, the Cello Concerto meets the strict requirements of the genre. However, according to the critics’ opinion, in some episodes of the work the composer had preference for the exterior virtuosity that somewhat aggravated the solo part.
Melodic richness, mastery of symphonic development and life-confirming lyrism are conferred to a number of merits of the Concerto.