Tone Poem Tuesday

I found this piece quite randomly. The other day I wanted to listen to the famed Adagio from Aram Khachaturian’s ballet Spartacus, and while doing a quick YouTube look-up I happened upon the same composer’s Symphony No. 3, which is subtitled “Symphony-poem”. It’s a single movement work that supplements an already large orchestra with about a dozen extra trumpets and a pipe organ. It’s about twenty-four minutes long, and since I had about twenty-five minutes left on my lunch period at work that day, I listened to it in its entirety.

And to be quite blunt, this may be the single most insane piece of classical music I have ever heard.

This work is colossally strange in ways that almost defy description. Here’s what I read about this work on Wikipedia:

 Originally conceived as a symphonic poem, it is a single movement symphony featuring an organ solo and fifteen trumpets conceived as a hymn of praise of the Soviet Union, with Khachaturian saying that he “wanted this work to express the Soviet people’s joy and pride in their great and mighty country”.


As you might expect from a work intended to inspire patriotic fervor–which the Soviets often went well out of their way to do–Khachaturian’s Symphony No. 3 opens with a big, brassy intro. But the thing is, the work stays big and brassy for almost the entirety of its duration. It’s fanfare upon fanfare upon fanfare, flourish upon flourish upon flourish, just a constant upping of the ante that will more than once have you thinking that Khachaturian’s just got to be almost finished, and then you check and see how much time is left on the video and you realize he’s nowhere near being done.

I really can’t assess this work in terms of quality. I’m sure it rewards multiple listens and there’s a lot going on in it, but for now I can simply say this: Any time anyone claims that classical music is dull, safe, quiet music for old farts, cue up this thing. This whole work is the ultimate musical expression of the word “Yikes”.

Here it is. Yikes, indeed.

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