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Aram KHACHATURIAN (1903-1978)
Three Ballet Suites

Gayaneh (1942) [18:25]
(Sabre Dance; Dance of the Rose Maidens; Lullaby; Lesghinka; Ayesha's Dance; Gopak)
Spartacus (1956) [25:33]
(Adagio; Dance of the Maidens; Scene and Dance with Crotalums; Variations of Aegina and Bacchanalia)
Masquerade (1940-43) [13:37]
(Romance; Nocturne; Waltz)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Yuri Simonov
rec. 1990s, London. DDD
REGIS RRC 1041 [58:26]

All companies need a Khachaturian ballet compilation. This one started out as a full price entry in the Collins Classics stable but can now be had at bargain price from Regis not long after its issue in the 1990s. The recording quality is staggeringly realistic; you will not be disappointed. As for Simonov he is an impulsive magician 'pushing the envelope' in some cases. At others he finds the just tempo - unhurried in the Lullaby from Gayaneh (tr. 3). The same ballet's Dance of the Rose Maidens shows how much Khachaturian owed to Balakirev and Rimsky-Korsakov.

Simonovís evolutionary bloom rate for the Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia is expansively unrushed. This is extremely languid, more so than we find with the composer's own now deleted version on BMG Melodiya. This is perhaps evidence of Simonov's experience as ballet conductor at the Bolshoi. It might just be too much of a good thing but Simonov's smoking spontaneity has the climactic statement in flames in seconds at 7:03 and the RPO's trumpets peachy vibrato is fleshily rich. It is a superbly built moment even though, like his countryman Yuri Ahronovitch, he may have made you impatient during the steady build. Much the same applies to Ayesha's Dance from Gayaneh.

In his full version of Gayaneh on RCA-BMG 82876 65836 2 Tjeknavorian accents more of the 'tick' in the clock-beat of the Dance of the Maidens. Even so this is sleepy magic with succulent wind solos. Simonov consciously or otherwise brings out the parallels with Ravel's Bolero.

No one has brought out the excitement of the thunderous Crotalum Dance (Spartacus) at its apex as well as Simonov at 2:34 (tr. 9).

Gopak from Gayaneh is brash with tambourine and oompah brass, tramping fortes and thunder-precise convulsive bass drum. That overwhelming kitsch returns for the Waltz from Masquerade and is there from the outset in the Sabre Dance from Gayaneh (tr. 1) and in the Lesghinka (tr. 4).

The three movements from the incidental music to the Lermontov play Masquerade include a sleepy Romance with a fruitily carnal vibrato from RPO principal trumpet and in the Nocturne a hoarsely 'breathy' Campoli-style violin solo with orchestra.

Classic 'plums' from the Khachaturian ballets - all gloriously non-PC. Simonov delights in extremes of speed often taking the music shockingly slowly and then letting fly with a high octane rush. Now you know. Not routine music-making. Doesn't always work but when it does ... watch out.

Rob Barnett



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