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.”
Khachaturian’s three concertos – the Piano
Concerto, the Violin Concerto and the Cello Concerto
– take up a prominent place in the national
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 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,
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
“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…”
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
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
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.
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.