Violin Sonata in b flat minor
Arno Babajanian's Violin Sonata, which dates from 1959 and is dedicated to Dmitri Shostakovich. It is generally considered to be among his finest works. The work shows the influence of Prokofiev, The big opening movement rises and falls through many climaxes. It is by turns harsh, then romantic, strident and lyrical. A slow Grave introduction leads to the main part, Allegro energico. The middle movement, Andante sostenuto, begins in hushed tones and is followed by a frenetic Presto section. The finale, an Allegro, is rough, dramatic and violent but ends softly as an an Andante. Our soundbites are from a performance by the Armenian virtuoso Ruben Ahronian with the composer Babajanian on the piano.
If Arno Babajanian (1921-1983) is an unfamiliar name in the West, he is a national hero in his native Armenia and quite well known in Russia. Babajanian was born in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. By age 5, Babajanian’s extraordinary musical talent was clearly apparent, and the composer Aram Khachaturian suggested that the boy be given proper music training. Two years later, in 1928 at the age of 7, Babajanian entered the Yerevan Conservatory. In 1938, he continued his studies in Moscow with Vissarion Shebalin. He later returned to Yerevan, where from 1950-1956 he taught at the conservatory. In 1971, he was named a People’s Artist of the Soviet Union. As a composer, Babajanian was active in most genres and even wrote many popular songs in collaboration with the leading poets such as Yevgeni Yevtushenko and Robert Rozhdestvensky among others. Much of Babajanian’s music is rooted in Armenian folk music and folklore. But generally, the way in which he uses uses Armenian folk music is in the virtuosic style of Rachmaninov and Khachaturian. His later works were influenced by Prokofiev and Bartók.
While the this sonata is a regular feature on recital programs in Russia, it is virtually unknown in the West. Perhaps this is in part due to the fact that it has not been readily available. For that reason, we are very pleased to do this and hope that it will find its way into recital halls throughout the world.