Khachaturian: Ballet Suites | Gayaneh, Spartacus Suites

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Composers: Aram Ilyich Khachaturian
Artists: Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra, Evgeny Svetlanov (conductor)

Along with Shostakovich and Prokofiev, Khachaturian was one of the most famous and celebrated composers of the Soviet Union. Born in Tbilisi, Georgia, his earliest musical influences were the folk music of Georgia and of his ancestral homeland, Armenia. His ballet Gayaneh, composed in 1942, tapped into this passion for his Armenian heritage; set on a collective farm, its story is concerned with the triumph of love and loyalty to the Motherland over treason – themes that would keep Stalin happy. Khachaturian’s later ballet Spartacus, written in 1956, took the famous story of the Greek slave turned gladiator and his defeat of the Roman general Crassus as its basis. Composed in the dying years of Stalin’s rule, Khachaturian and his audiences were drawn to the story’s theme of resistance against tyranny.

Several movements from these ballets have taken on a life outside the original ballet suites – for example, the Sabre Dance from Gayaneh and the famous Adagio from Spartacus – ensuring that these wonderful and colourfully scored ballet suites have become firm favourites in the concert hall.

‘The Bolshoi orchestra are obviously completely at home in this repertoire, and Svetlanov’s ear for orchestral detail is as sure as ever. How beautifully he handles the tapering down at the end of the ‘Dance of the Nymphs’ (from Spartacas), while the opening of the ‘Dance of the Young Girls of Gadès’ brings a slow, subtle crescendo… The famous ‘Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia’ has never sounded more touchingly refined on record and the climax does not disappoint. In Gayaneh there is a beguilingly sinuous sophistication in ‘Ayesha’s dance’, and the ‘Lullaby’ and ‘Gayeneh’s Adagio’ are beautifully played, creating much delicacy of texture.’ Gramophone.

00:00:00 Gayaneh, Ballet Suite: Dance of the Rose Maidens
00:02:41 Gayaneh, Ballet Suite: Aysha’s Dance
00:07:04 Gayaneh, Ballet Suite: Dance of the Highlanders
00:09:01 Gayaneh, Ballet Suite: Lullaby
00:14:54 Gayaneh, Ballet Suite: Noune’s Dance
00:16:39 Gayaneh, Ballet Suite: Armen’s Var
00:18:37 Gayaneh, Ballet Suite: Gayaneh’s Adagio
00:22:37 Gayaneh, Ballet Suite: Lezghinka
00:25:35 Gayaneh, Ballet Suite: Dance with Tambourines
00:28:35 Gayaneh, Ballet Suite: Sabre Dance
00:30:58 Spartacus, Ballet Suite: Introduction – Dance of the Nymphs
00:37:02 Spartacus, Ballet Suite: Aegina’s Dance
00:41:02 Spartacus, Ballet Suite: Scene and Dance with Crotalums
00:44:55 Spartacus, Ballet Suite: Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia
00:54:38 Spartacus, Ballet Suite: Dance of the Gaditan Maidens – Victory of Spartacus

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