Ruben Gazarian Conducts an Unusual Program

2006_Villa Hu¨gel_Booklet

ARENSKY: Quartet “Dem Andenken an P.I. Tchaikovsky” für Streichorchester. HINDEMITH: 5 Pieces for String Orchestra. SCHREKER: Intermezzo, Op. 8. Scherzo for String Orchestra. MENDELSSOHN: String Symphony No. 10 / Georgisches Kammerorchester Ingolstadt; Ruben Gazarian, cond / Ars Produktion 382530

Here’s a strange program juxtaposing the music of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy with that of Russian Romantic Anton Arensky, modernist Paul Hindemith and the somewhat unclassifiable late-Romantic Franz Schreker. The Arensky is, in fact, his own arrangement for orchestra of his String Quartet No. 2, dedicated to Tchaikovsky (whose name is spelled in the booklet as “Tchaikvosky”) a few months after the older composer’s death. It’s a lovely piece, alternating romantic themes with biting, double-time string figures, and I was struck by Gazarian’s well-measured pace, emphasizing the work’s drama over its romanticism, as well as his wonderful clarity of texture.

Gazarian brings a similar sensibility to Hindemith’s interesting, if somewhat dry, 5 Pieces for String Orchestra. Once again, clarity of texture is paramount in his reading (oh, how Toscanini would have loved this!), while Schreker’s Intermezzo, a much more emotional piece, grabs one’s attention in both its themes and its treatment. The same composer’s Scherzo is also lively and interesting, but goes on too long (and is too repetitive).

As usual, the Mendelssohn piece is not only extremely well-written but emotionally gripping, varying light and darkness in its contrasting themes. I tell you, the more I hear of Mendelssohn’s music, the more I’m convinced that he was a greater composer than Mozart—yet he doesn’t get quite the same adulation. His modulations are almost always unexpected and dramatic, and his sense of drama even higher, yet no one’s kids are listening to Mendelssohn in the womb!

An interesting program, then, of which the Schreker Scherzo is the only weak link, expertly conducted and played.

—© 2018 Lynn René Bayley

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