Sergey Khachatryan, 22, captivates Hollywood Bowl crowd
In debut, Sergey Khachatryan, 22, displays passion,
virtuosity that won him awards.
By Chris Pasles
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
August 23, 2007
NOW we know what the buzz around Armenian violinist Sergey
Khachatryan, 22, is all about. Winner of the International Jean
Sibelius Competition in Helsinki, Finland, in 2000 (the youngest in
its history) and the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels in 2005,
Khachatryan first played in the Southland with the Minnesota Orchestra
last year at UCLA and in Orange County.
On Tuesday he made a spectacular debut with the Los Angeles
Philharmonic under the baton of French conductor Stéphane Denève at
the Hollywood Bowl. The vehicle was Prokofiev’s heartfelt Violin
Concerto No. 2, the composer’s last Western commission before he
returned to his much-missed homeland in 1932 after a self-imposed
exile from the Soviet Union in 1918.
Poetic, introspective, effortlessly virtuosic, Khachatryan mined the
classical lyricism of the concerto’s first movement, the sweet and
sour nostalgia of its glorious slow movement and the fiery gypsy
rhythms of the last. His sound was vibrant and rich, and his
interpretation was mature, although surely it will deepen.
As winner of the Queen Elisabeth Competition, he plays the lustrous
1708 "Huggins" Stradivarius, on loan from the Nippon Music Foundation.
Denève accompanied sensitively and with transparency. The miking
justifiably favored the soloist, but the orchestra sounded terrific.
The French conductor’s account of Dvorák’s bucolic Eighth Symphony,
which closed the program, again relied on Gallic virtues of leanness
and clarity, eliciting remarkable degrees of light and shade within a
But by keeping the dynamic and expressive contrasts under such tight
control, Denève undercut the symphony’s dramatic possibilities, the
sense of intoxication with nature and how that connected with Czech
nationalism, evoking tragedy, yearning and delirium. Catherine Ransom
Karoly was the eloquent flute soloist.
Denève opened with Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor as
transcribed for orchestra in 1929 by Leopold Stokowski. Unlike his
earlier version of the Toccata and Fugue in D minor (which reached
millions through Walt Disney’s 1940 film "Fantasia"), this
transcription doesn’t pummel the listener into submission. It begins
quietly, adds dark, muted colors discreetly and evokes light passing
through stained-glass windows as it builds a monumental edifice.
Long out of fashion for their use of large orchestras and romantic,
sustained phrasings, such transcriptions once introduced generations
to the wonders of Bach, and this affectionate performance may have
been a welcome sign of their comeback. Let’s have more of them.