Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Chandos recordings
All Chandos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All APR reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount



CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS
Sound Samples & Downloads

Aram KHACHATURIAN (1903-1978)
Spartacus - ballet in 3 acts (1954) [136:50]
RIAS-Kammerchor, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin/Michail Jurowski
rec. 6-9 February 1996, 14-18 February 1997, Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin-Dahlem.
CAPRICCIO C5112 [75:47 + 61:03]  

Experience Classicsonline

I never saw the ballet Spartacus in its entirety, but love the chunks that I have heard. Usually these were the Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia, Aegina’s Variation and Bacchanal, and the Dance of the Gaditanian Maidens. I liked these, and was always curious about the entire ballet and wondered why it’s always the same small subset selected for performance. If these selections were an indication of the quality, maybe the rest was not inferior? After listening to the entire ballet I can say that the rest may not be inferior, but that it is the right to choose the selections for concert use. This is apparently one of those ballets which cannot be appreciated without the visual component; its music alone cannot hold one’s attention over its 2.5 hours, unlike the magnificent ballets of Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev. It is just not diverse enough, and though each separate scene provides interesting listening each is interesting in a very similar way.
In the Soviet Union Spartacus was much trumpeted and acclaimed as almost the best ballet of Modern times, and I can see why: it is an ideal socialist realist work, bombastic, easy to grasp, perfect music to be consumed by the Proletariat. We know close to nothing about the music of Ancient Rome, so Khachaturian had more or less to invent the entire style. What he chose is highly rhythmic, accentuated, often repetitive, with simple harmonies, and with motifs that may be square, yet are catchy and hummable: a perfect recipe for success in the Soviet Union. It should have completely removed the stamp of formalism, which was inexplicably placed on placid Khachaturian in 1948. It seems that following this condemnation the composer deliberately simplified his style to the minimum. Anyway, the music is inspired, and can serve as an example of a socialist-realist creation where real talent made the art believable.
The story is loosely based on the eponymous book by Raffaello Giovagnoli, a popular one in the USSR, and on several historical chronicles, especially that by Plutarch. The good guys are Spartacus, a Thracian gladiator, the leader of the revolt of the slaves, and his lover Phrygia. The bad guys are the Roman general Crassus and his mean girlfriend Aegina. There is love, treachery and the righteous wrath of the masses. Even though the hero dies, the message of the ballet is optimistic, as it is bound to have been in a truly Soviet work of art.
The music is grand and energetic, with a black-and-white, martial character. It has some longueurs and a few moments of banality. Still, it’s not all a victory lap: there is suffering, struggle and pain, and the music of the struggle breathes with a realistic infectious enthusiasm and sings the certainty of victory. The cymbals get little rest, and there are so many culminations on the way that they start losing their sting. The orchestration is heavy and colorful, with a lot of work for the brass and the percussion. A chorus is employed at strategic points, to remarkable effect. So it is more or less 2.5 hours of oomtza-oomtza and boom-boom. Many dances are march-like. Khachaturian was never far from traditional Armenian music, and there are some Armenian-hued melodies and intonations, although due to their exotic character they can as well double as Ancient Roman. The seductive saxophone accompanies the nymphomaniac Aegina when she dances for Crassus. The Dance of the Gaditaniae sounds like a creative answer to Ravel’s Bolero. For those who love the Sabre Dance (who doesn’t?) the score has the Dance of the Greek Slave(s), where the composer employs similar effects, though the result is less catchy. Some parts like the General Dance in Act III have rolling minimalist appeal.
The performance is solid and enthusiastic and has real drive. The soloists are expressive, and the balance of the orchestra is good. The brass is bright and golden. It is possible that in order to make this music less trivial some non-trivial conducting decisions should be made, but Michail Jurowski gives a faithful account, without surprises. He conducts Aegina’s Variation quite slowly, at least slower than I am used to. This number does not really take flight, and is not as fiery as it could be; it smells of Minkus. The ensuing Bacchanale, however, is fast and wild enough. The heavenly Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia is as magical as ever. This is definitely the highlight. It has its own internal dramatic development, and in a good performance can be a cathartic experience. It is full of profound tenderness and sincere love.
The recording is clean and realistic. The booklet contains the biography of the composer, the history of the creation of Spartacus, and a synopsis of the ballet, all of it in German and English.
If you miss the times when everything was simple, and the world was divided into the imminently doomed Bad Guys, and the Modest Heroes of Everyday Labour, then this music can definitely bring you much enjoyment. That said, there are longueurs, so think twice - maybe the suites extracted from the ballet are still the better choice. 

Oleg Ledeniov 


















































































































Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.