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Aram KHACHATURIAN (1903-1978)
Four Pieces from Spartacus [23:03]
Six Pieces from Gayane [18:20]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Daphnis et Chloé, Suite No. 2 [17:04]
St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra/Yuri Temirkanov
rec. December 2005 (Khachaturian), December 2010 (Ravel), Great Philharmonic Hall, St Petersburg, Russia
SIGNUM CLASSICS SIGCD310 [58:26]

The Spartacus suite doesn’t get off to a great start: the variations of Aegina are stiff and lacking excitement. Temirkanov’s Adagio pales in comparison to Svetlanov’s (super-long and sensual) or Tjeknavorian’s (faster, but hyper-passionate). The Scene and Dance with Crotala mostly goes fine but Temirkanov has a weird little habit of inserting the tiniest pauses before downbeats-just tiny enough you notice them half-consciously. It’s a minuscule irritant, like getting sand in your mouth. Only the final Victory of Spartacus seems really idiomatic and successful.
 
In Gayane, the first surprise is that Ayshe’s dance has been separated from its spooky introduction, the Awakening. I wish it were here. In the segment that is played here, a part which was very clearly played on a saxophone in Khachaturian’s own Decca recording is taken up by a flute. There are numerous cuts to the dance. Why? At least the Dance of the Rose Maidens goes very well, although the young Kurds sound a little drowsy.
 
Then we get Ravel’s second suite from Daphnis et Chloé, following on directly from the “Sabre Dance”, which seems odd. It’s a good performance, slightly sleepy maybe and like almost all performances of the suite it would be better with the choir, but it’s certainly better than the Khachaturian had been. The St Petersburg flute player has a few minor issues with the enormous solo, and the timpanist seems to come and go for no reason during the final dance.
 
This is a low-level recording so, if for some reason you’ve actually purchased it, turn up the volume. If you haven’t purchased, don’t. Given that this is Yuri Temirkanov with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, I expected much, much better. I am disappointed.
 
Brian Reinhart