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CD Review

Aram Khachaturian

Film Score Suites

  • Suite "Othello" *
  • Prologue and Introduction
  • Desdemona's Arioso
  • Vineyards
  • Venice (Nocturne)
  • Nocturnal Murder (Roderigo's Death)
  • Othello's Despair
  • A Fit of Jealousy
  • Othello's Arrival
  • The Striking of Desdemona (The Slap)
  • Othello's Farewell from the Camp
  • Finale
  • Suite "The Battle of Stalingrad"
  • A City on the Volga - The Invasion
  • Stalingrad in Flames
  • The Enemy is doomed
  • For our Motherland; To the Attack! - Eternal Glory to the Heroes
  • To Victory - There is a Cliff on the Volga
* Jana Valásková, soprano
* Viktor Šimčisko, violin
* Slovak Philharmonic Chorus
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra/Adriano
Naxos 8.573389 64m
Find it at AmazonFind it at Amazon UKFind it at Amazon GermanyFind it at Amazon CanadaFind it at Amazon FranceFind it at Amazon Japan
Also available on Marco Polo 8.223314: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan

Originally released on Marco Polo in 1993, these 1989 and 1992 recordings happily reappear on Naxos' Film Music Classics line. I would have been all of six years of age when this hit the market, so in the event you also happened to miss them, now's your chance. It's a timely reminder that Naxos and her sister labels were small and had limited resources, finding rare repertoire and unknown ensembles with which to eventually build a musical empire. Orchestras such as the Slovak Radio Symphony played a major role, as did conductors like Adriano. The playing and conducting wasn't always great, but for music like this, it didn't have to be.

Actually, everything goes well here. The strings have a gritty, unpolished sound that not only fits dramatic film, but also suits the composer. Khachaturian apparently found writing for a massive 220-minute film daunting – this was before The Lord of the Rings – and decided to focus on battle music and dramatic events. He apparently also chose not to glorify Stalin as much as expected. The whole ordeal must have been trying, and as a result, the score is largely uninspired (though the quotations of "O, Christmas Tree" are initially hilarious). Throughout, Adriano and his orchestra capture what contrast the score offers and manage to generate excitement when they can.

Othello has a stronger source material, and the music fares better as a result. That doesn't mean it's great music, just better. Khachaturian was always a composer who thrived on color, but curiously, his film scores feel formulaic and predictable. Still, this is a treat for fans for film scores and a good entry in a very popular Naxos series. Given the recording dates and location, the sound is surprisingly fine. Not bad at all.

Copyright © 2014, Brian Wigman