Aram Khachaturian

Gayane, ballet in 4 acts

    Description by James Manheim

    Aram Khachaturian's ballet Gayane, variously spelled "Gayne," "Gayaneh," and "Gayané," had its premiere at the Kirov Ballet on December 9, 1942, in wartime. The ballet's story concerned a young woman named Gayane living on a collective farm of which her father is the chairman. Gayane helps entrap a spy bent on stealing Soviet geological secrets. That clunker of a Communist plot may explain why recordings of the entire ballet have been hard to find in recent decades, even though Gayane spawned one of the last of the great orchestral warhorses, the Sabre Dance. Originally part of a suite of ethnic dances in the ballet's second act, the Sabre Dance is an irresistible piece of fun that's known and loved far beyond the confines of classical music fandom. Its appeal partly derives from its combination of a highly dissonant element, an alternation between major and minor sevenths with full-blown, hell-for-leather, stomp-your-feet forward motion.

    The neglect of the rest of Khachaturian's music is a shame, for the ballet has many noteworthy moments of folkloric flavor beyond the Sabre Dance. The story resolves itself in praise for the friendship among the various peoples of the Soviet Union, a development that gave the Georgian-born and Armenian-begotten Khachaturian plenty of room to explore the rhythms and textures of Central Asian folk music. Two of the other dances in the Act II set evokes a group much in the news, the Kurds, and in general Gayane did much to inspire a folkloristic strain in postwar Soviet music even as its composer suffered condemnation at the hands of Stalinist cultural thugs. Gayane, whose music Khachaturian created for Russian ballerina Nina Anisimova, enjoyed several revivals in the years after its composition, and each time Khachaturian tinkered with the score. One indication of the music's riches and its popularity in its own day is that the composer extracted three orchestral suites from the music during and after the ballet's composition.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Sabre Dance
    2. Ayesha's Dance
    3. Dance of the Rose Maidens
    4. Dance of the Kurds
    5. Lullaby
    6. Dance of the Young Kurds
    7. Armen's Variation
    8. Lezghinka
    9. Gopak
    10. Introduction
    11. Gayaneh's adagio
    12. Fire
    13. Lyrical duo
    14. Dance of the old people
    15. Dance of the Highlanders
    16. Nounes variation
    17. Russian Dance
    18. Dance of Welcome
    19. Dance of an Old Man and Carpet Weavers
    20. Embroidering of the Carpets
    21. Scene
    22. Gayaneh's Variation and Dance Finale
    23. Final Scene

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2014 Nimbus Alliance NI 6269
    2012 Supraphon SU 41002
    2007 VAI Audio 4428
    2005 Rca Red Seal 65836
    1994 Russian Disc RDCD11029
    Vox 5119
    Forum Records 46205758