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.
- Recording made in 2000
- Includes booklet notes
- ‘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, April 2001