Symphony No. 1 in E Minor/Khatchaturian

February 4, 2011


Written in 1934 as his graduation work, the symphony received its premiere in April of 1935 with Szenkar conducting the Moscow Philharmonic. Known for his Gayane ballet which includes the popular “Sabre Dance” and his Spartacus ballet we seldom if ever hear his 3 Symphonies being performed. I’ve heard his piano, violin, and flute concertos over the years but this 10 CD historical set released by Brilliant and conducted by Alexander Gauk is my first introduction to this E minor Symphony. As of this writing it is still available through Berkshire Record Outlet.


The 42 minute work is in three movements with the first movement an Andante being 19 minutes and introducing a theme which has ample opportunity for development. It is a theme you’ll recognize on multiple listens. While one can hear some influence from the orchestral showcase master Rimsky-Korsakov it is not in the same category. It is also a large step above so many of the “youth” works that I’ve listened to over the years. The Adagio offers some extremely nice playing from the woodwind section. The melody is carried over from the first movement but it is presented in a mysterious Middle Eastern oriental style. The Allegro also offers the melody from the first movement as it is in an agitated state. Included in-between is a fine yearning section from the woodwinds before it reverts back to an agitated conclusion.


This 1958 recording is a mono historical recording. While it has been nicely cleaned up the dynamic range is limited and your speakers will never be challenged. There is a recording of this work available on the ASV label (CDDCA858) but I’ve not heard it so I cannot comment. Gauk and the USSR State Radio & TV Symphony Orchestra seem to be quite at home with this piece. The 10 CD set is a good bargain and should be gotten before it disappears. Recommended.


Track Listing:

1….Andante-maestoso con passion-allegro ma non troppo (18:52)

2….Adagio sostenuto (12:25)

3….Allegro risoluto (11:08)

Total time is 42:25



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