Okay, many serious music-lovers consider the music of Khachaturian to be unbearably cheap, kitschy and vulgar.
I LOOOOVE the music of Khachaturian. Kitschy and ulgar? Sure! His works -and not only the Sabre Dance – are crowd-pullers, and even popular crowd-pullers.
But the music of Mahler is also often “vulgar” – or was accused of being so, when audiences didn’t comprehend how Mahler in fact trans-substantiated the vulgarity.
Not that I want to compare Khachaturian to Mahler and pretend that Khachaturian also “trans-substantiates” the vulgarity. He doesn’t! Yeah, okay, fine, there is “vulgarity” in his music – and I love it. Khachaturian’s themes, orchestration, developments are coloristic, sweeping, epic, dramatic, sentimental, vulgar, kitschy, and fun. Some recordings of the Piano Concerto do without the infamous flexatone (a kind of musical saw, making those eerie sounds associated with cheap sci-fi films of the ’50s. Link will open new tab to Wikipedia). NO! Give me the flexatone! And vodka without alcoohol, while you’re at it?
I’ve posted many Khachaturian reviews on Amazon.com back in the days, especially of his two Concertos, which I need to import here. In the meanwhile, see:
Glazunov, Khachaturian: Violin Concertos. Julian Sitkovetsky, Moscow Youth Orchestra, Kirill Kondrashin, Romanian Radio Orchestra, Niyazi. Russian Disc RD CD 15 009 (1994) – a great version, by a major violinist – father of fiddler Dimitri Sitkovetsky – who died tragically young.
Sibelius, Khachaturian: Violin Concertos. Julian Sitkovetsky, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Nicolai Anossov, Rumanian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Niyazi (+ Bazzini: Rondo in E minor, Sarasate: Two Spanish Dances op. 21. Bella Davidovich, piano). Monopole MONO 002 (2005) Fabulous performances but dismal transfers – avoid
Aram Khachaturian: Piano Concerto. Pavel Bořkovec: Piano Concerto No. 2. Antonin Jemelik, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Alois Klima, Karel Ancerl 1960, 1961. Urania US 5164-CD (1989)
Khachaturian: Piano Concerto, Gayaneh Ballet-Suite, Maskerade-Suite. Constantine Orbelian, Scottish National Orchestra, Neeme Järvi. Chandos 8542 (1987)