all over again. Yes, this is exactly the same disc you have
all seen before on Classics for Pleasure. Even the 1993 digital
remastering is the same. The only difference is the livery,
which has been updated in line with the new CfP look. If you
already have this disc there is therefore no need to repurchase.
If you do not have it yet, I can assure you that it is well
worth the modest asking price. Aram Khachaturian was a fine
conductor of his own music, and anyone wanting a sample of the
music from this two most famous ballets cannot go wrong with
this fine disc.
four selections from Spartacus make for a substantial
orchestral suite, though it is necessarily a series of ballet
highlights and lacks the thematic coherence of suites drawn
from, say, Prokofiev's ballets. Nonetheless, the septuagenarian
composer draws committed playing from the London Symphony Orchestra.
The London Symphony Orchestra's ensemble is tight. The brass
bray unreservedly, and there is some lovely detail from the
woodwind too. Percussion are balanced quite forward and the
recording is rather brightly lit, almost garish, but if anything
this adds to the colour and carnival excitement of the musical
strings dig deep and accents are sharp in the opening Variation
of Aegina. Perhaps the tempo could canter more, but the
pointing of rhythms keeps everything in sharp focus and maintains
momentum. The snare seems to get a little in front of itself
on the off beats about 5:50 through, but otherwise there is
little to complain about.
famous Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia is surprisingly
subtle. Khachaturian's tempo seems a little stiff at first and
he does not swoon as so many others
do, but he keeps the music moving forward. A little more purple
would not go amiss here, but Khachaturian's slightly understated
and sensitive rendition is still quite effective.
tension in the final two selections tends to wax and wane a
little, but there are enough moments of colour – like the “Spanish”
episode about half way through the final Dance Gaditanae
– to keep you entertained.
music from Gayaneh is lighter and fluffier, but played
with just as much commitment by the LSO. The opening Lezghinka, and the later boisterous selections
(Storm, Mountaineers and the manic Sabre Dance)
are lots of fun when played with
such brio. Again, the recorded sound is brightly lit in a way
that heightens the healthy vulgarity of this music in this full-throttle
performance. The softer, more gentle music of the Lullaby and the Invention – this last an addition to the otherwise identical programme Khachaturian
recorded for Decca a decade earlier – are also well served by
the LSO strings.
a filler, CfP offers Svetlanov's high octane rendition of Autumn
from Glazunov's ballet, The Seasons. The Philharmonia
are caught in good form and full cry under his baton. Even the
more sensitive episodes that punctuate the explosive Bacchanale
are bursting with energy, making for a rousing conclusion
to an enjoyable disc.
And a further perspective from Rob Barnett:-
thaw was in the air in the 1970s; enough to allow both Aram
Khachaturian and Yevgeny Svetlanov to make recordings with London
disc is a memento of the vitality of the resulting sessions.
The LSO already had glowing credentials from their Previn recordings
of Russian repertoire. Their Rachmaniniov The Bells and
two Prokofiev film cantatas have recently been reissued and
they are startlingly good and sound grittily idiomatic. Khachaturian
recorded the Spartacus 'suite' with the LSO in February 1977.
It was to be his last recording for he died in Moscow the next
year at the age of 75. This recording is not that of a feeble
septuagenarian. Khachaturian draws out the pumping energy, delicious
vulgarity, glitz and poetry we expect from these scores. The
Spartacus movements amount to a sketched symphonic suite.
If its other three movements are left shaded by the famous Adagio
of Spartacus and Phrygia there is plenty here to savour.
Try the Dance of the Gaditanae with its confiding 'ticking'
recalling Constant Lambert and Mahler's First Symphony. The
ADD sound is good though not as brilliant as that for Yuri Simonov
on Regis. The playing has more edginess than that adopted by
the Vienna PO when the composer recorded the same suite with
them in the 1960s but is not as gleamingly vulgar as that recorded
by the composer with the USSRSO in the late 1960s. If you like
Khachaturian - and I do as a guilty pleasure - then by all means
start with this CFP collection but don’t forget to pick up the
complete Spartacus on one of the various Russian sets.
Similarly not to be missed is Tjeknavorian's stunningly recorded
complete Gayaneh for RCA-BMG. Speaking of Gayaneh
we are treated to six movements here. The Lezghinka and
Mountaineers coveys a dervish-wild intoxication indebted
to Borodin's feral Polovtsi. The lilting Lullaby with
its graceful caprice is treasure indeed. Khachaturian knew how
to write them! The Sabre Dance with its xylophone
emphasis is again frenetic although in this recording I thought
that the fire sometimes burnt a little lackadaisically.
Svetlanov conducts a sharp-as-a-knife performance of one movement
from Glazunov's flighty fanciful ballet The Seasons.
The orchestra is the Philharmonia and they manage the deafening
bustle of the bracing gales although the strings seem rather
glassy when they should be sweet. All is redeemed in the final
few minutes with swelling romance - part Rimskian; part Nutcracker.
Svetlanov turns in a fine performance but this does not displace
the one recorded years ago by Konstantin Ivanov on Melodiya.