Alexander Chaushian / Eduard Topchjan

Armenian Rhapsody

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Cellist Alexander Chaushian is a wonderful artist with excellent technique and musicianship, conveying a wide range of emotions and styles of music. The Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Eduard Topchjan is an excellent accompaniment to the cellist, equally capable of evoking many emotions through their technically solid and artistically superior musicianship. Arguably the most enjoyable work on the album is Khachaturian's Concerto-Rhapsody, with its lush orchestral beginning that gives way to a cello solo which is rather like, unusually, a cadenza at the beginning of the work. One hears a distinctly non-European tonality (somewhat like Indian classical music) with haunting melodies and a repeated, pleading motif throughout the work. It is emotionally stirring, and both the orchestra and soloist bring out strong dynamic and stylistic contrasts. The orchestra manages to play precisely, and yet the sound is still lyrical and smooth. Chaushian is as agile as a violinist, for he makes the cello seem effortless. Suren Zakarian's piece for cello and chamber orchestra is quite a contrast to Khachaturian's. From the beginning, with its long, tense, highly vibrated notes, the listener is unclear about the tonality. It's almost disconcerting, even after the orchestra enters. The orchestra plays a drone tone behind the cello, and sometimes this is quite a trial to hear. Zakarian is working with tone colors and moods, alternating passages where the cello is allowed to sing out (this is quite nice to hear), and low, murky, dark passages. This is no reflection on the musicians, but rather a comment on the accessibility of the piece. The same could be said for moments in Vache Sharafyan's Suite for cello and orchestra, where sometimes the cello line is so entwined with the orchestra in the first movement that it is hard to hear, and it can sound rather cacophonous. However, the second movement features light, ethereal strings and a liquid, singing cello, and the third movement, a Sarabande, allows the cello to become impassioned and then dramatically drops into silence. The final piece on the album, Krunk (Crane), is fascinating; it introduces the woodwind instrument called the duduk. The entrancing, mysterious beginning creates a sense of melancholy that pervades the work, and the three voices intertwine so smoothly, shimmering. So while some of the music may not be to everyone's taste, it is still a wonderful album with unquestionably excellent musicians showcasing the best of their culture.

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