Dora Serviarian-Kuhn has a reputation as the world’s leading interpreter of Khachaturian’s Piano Concerto. That must be a mixed blessing, since this is clearly not one of his best works. Although jarring, it lacks the drama of much of his music: noise does not equal excitement. Her hands handled the leaps and bounds athletically, and I think the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra hit most of the notes. But for a piece with a lot going on, it was actually quite dull.
In contrast, the Mendelssohn 4th Symphony after the break did provide drama in abundance. Maestro Eduard Topchjan had the podium – my last chance to see him conduct for a while – as he led his orchestra through Mendelssohn’s scenic tour through Italy. The Armenian Philharmonic strings still sound a little thin and the winds have a tendency to jump their cues, but those are normal problems here. Otherwise Topchjan kept the pacing clear and lively. The audience, which probably came in predisposed to cheer the Khachaturian work rather than the Mendelssohn, clearly knew which of the two halves of the concert came out better as evidenced through the much more rambunctious applause in the second half.