Tag Archives: Igor Voskresensky

Aram Khachaturian monument, Moscow

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Born in Georgia, but Armenian by blood, Aram Khachaturian (1903-1978) is another of those great Soviet musicians – composer, in his case – who seemed to come out of nowhere. He, like the great pianist Svyatoslav Richter, came to Moscow with virtually no formal training and ended up making his mark almost immediately.  Numerous of his works are still played regularly around the world, but his ballets Gayane and Spartacus are surely his most enduring. That is, with one exception… Khachaturian is also the author of the short “Sabre Dance,” which, it sometimes seems, has not been played only by the lazy and the incompetent.  This seems like the perfect place for me to make a personal admission. As a child of the American desert (I mean that literally, I was born and grew up in the Mojave desert, but I also mean it figuratively, because I grew up in the barren 1950s and early 1960s), I didn’t get much high culture. With the sole exception of a long playing record of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker in our home, my sole exposure to classical music was through Looney Tunes cartoons. Were it not for Bugs Bunny I wouldn’t have heard a classical composition, other than The Nutcracker, until I was well into my third decade of life. The reason I mention this is that I actually had heard “Sabre Dance” although I had no idea it was written by Khachaturian, or, indeed, that is was even classical music. I knew the tune in the spectacular performance of the great rock ‘n’ roller Dave Edmunds, who had something of a hit with the song in the 1960s with his band Love Sculpture. I guess I should be ashamed of this, but have you ever heard Edmunds play that tune on his guitar? Holy Moses! That’s what the word searing was invented for. I never see Khachaturian’s name or face that I don’t think of Dave Edmunds. I don’t know what the composer would think of that, but there’s nothing I can do about it.

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As for this monument to Khachaturian, it was sculpted by Georgy Frangulyan, based on an architectural design by Igor Voskresensky, and it stands just across the street from the monument to Mstislav Rostropovich, which is also the work of this sculptor-architect team. It was unveiled in 2006 with Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, Russian First Lady Lyudmila Putin and Armenian President Robert Kocharian doing the honors in person. Curiously, just eight years after that event, all three of those individuals have receded into the background. Putin divorced his wife and she plummeted out of the public eye; Luzhkov was removed from the mayor’s office and he, too, became irrelevant overnight; while Kocharian left office in Armenia in 2008 and left the big world of politics. I don’t think that has anything to say about Khachaturian, but it does remind us that ars longa, vita brevis…

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Mstislav Rostropovich Monument, Moscow

IMG_3545.jpg2This monument to Mstislav Rostropovich appeared in the little square at the crux of Moscow’s Bryusov Pereulok and Yeliseyevsky Pereulok in 2012, five years after the cellist died. He was one of the great artists and great citizens of the world. He sheltered Alexander Solzhenitsyn in the early 1970s, when that writer was under attack from the Soviet authorities. But I don’t want to get into listing all of this cellists great deeds – I’ll never get anything else said.

IMG_3546.jpg2 IMG_3552.jpg2I used to see Rostropovich perform frequently in the 1980s in Washington, D.C., when he was the musical director and principal conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra. I loved him for his temperament, his enthusiasm, his passion. No symphony orchestra could merely play under the direction of his baton. The musicians had to perform. With Shostakovich at the helm, the National Symphony Orchestra was a beast – a live, living organism that breathed and seethed. I know, I know. There are those who thought Rostropovich, especially as a conductor, was too emotional. In my book: Baloney. Rostropovich brought class, quality, breadth and depth to classical music in D.C. during his tenure. He breathed life and importance into a sleepy art form in a sleepy, or as the song has it – a “bourgeois” – town.

IMG_3547.jpg2IMG_3553.jpg2In Moscow, from the Perestroika era on, Rostropovich was a frequent and welcome guest. He rarely missed an opportunity to make it known what side he was on politically – showing up to play his cello as the Berlin Wall fell, and showing up in Moscow during the coup in Moscow to lend his support to Boris Yeltsin. The monument in Moscow is a multi-layered work by sculptor Alexander Rukavishnikov and architect Igor Voskresensky. Among other things, it includes a page from the music to one of the works that Sergei Prokofiev wrote expressly for the musician.

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