Loris Tjeknavorian

Khachaturian: Suites & Dances

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This disc collects pieces by Aram Khachaturian that were probably played more often a quarter century ago than today, even though national musics of the twentieth century have been on the rise. The program shows both virtues and limitations of Khachaturian's music. The virtues are simple pleasures: much of the music shows the combination of adept orchestration and motor rhythms that has given Khachaturian his certified hits, and the musicians of the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra admirably get into the swing of things. A march as straightforward as "Forward to Victory," from the composer's score for a film potboiler called The Battle of Stalingrad, remains irresistible. The limitations revolve around the fact that Khachaturian, although he occasionally used folk tunes in his works, essentially treated his own Central Asian musical cultures as sources of exotica -- a tendency shared in his time by Communist Soviet composers and light classical composers of the capitalist West. Consider the rarely heard suite from Khachaturian's incidental music for a play called The Valencian Widow; save for a few percussion inflections it sounds quite a bit like Khachaturian's program music set in Central Asia. The final dance is not a Spanish dance but a somewhat reworked can-can. All of which is not to say that it's not as much fun as the composer's more familiar suites, nor that aficionados of nationalist orchestral music won't enjoy this nicely remastered disc.

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