> Khatchaturian Spartacus Black [RB]: Classical Reviews- May2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Aram KHACHATURYAN (1903-1978)
Spartacus Suite (1956) [21.31]
Masquerade Suite (1941) [17.09]
Gayaneh Suite (1943) [18.41]
London SO/Stanley Black
rec 1975, 1978 ADD
DECCA ELOQUENCE 461 007-2 [68.47]

Stanley Black's Khachaturyan LPs came out in the era when one particular piece of his came to new fame through the BBC seafaring drama, The Onedin Line. This used the great Adagio for Spartacus and Phrygia as its signature. I remember that programme making liberal use of classical scores including the Moeran Symphony in G minor and Bax's November Woods.

Black, more renowned in the light classical side, gives the Adagio (The Onedin Line music) one of its fruitiest and most opened-out readings. He is blessed with glitzy Phase Four sound but these versions do not match up to the composer's on BMG-Melodiya. However he does make something quite special out of the Bolero-like Dance of the Gaditanes where he sustains atmosphere and tension extremely well.

The other two suites are five movement affairs. Masquerade is wild and woolly, frilly and bumptious. If you find the Russian or Armenian gaucherie of Svetlanov or Tjeknavorian just too much then this might well be for you. In Masquerade's Mazurka things really catch fire. Its vulgar steely borscht of Offenbach, the Can-Can and Parisian japes comes off well in Black's hands. Gayaneh is generously enjoyable even if it does comprise updated remnants of Borodin (Prince Igor), Ippolitov-Ivanov's Sardar march, snatches of Shostakovich and slices of Rimsky-Korsakov (Russian Easter Festival). The crowning movement is a most lovingly shaped Dance of the Rose Maidens - one of Khachaturyan's unsung miniature masterpieces even if it is beholden to Mussorsgky's Dance of the Persian Slave Girls from Khovantschina.

Khachaturyan is here shown as the master purveyor of enjoyable hokum but his primitivistic tone is softened a click or two by Black and the LSO.

Rob Barnett



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