This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes
/ Sikorski for the UK, British Commonwealth (excluding Canada), Republic of Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, Israel.
1.Dance of Welcome 2.Lyrical Duet 3.Russian Dance 4.Nouné’s Variation 5.Dance of the Old Man and the Carpet-Weavers 6.Armen’s Variation 7.Fire
Having himself been born and brought up in Georgia, Khachaturian’s formative musical influence had not been so much Armenian as a trans-Caucasian mix of Georgian, Armenian and Azerbaijani folk and urban songs and dances. Intending to write an ‘Armenian ballet’, Khachaturian therefore spent much of 1939 in Armenia, the land of his ancestors. The ballet which eventually emerged, after a false start as a work called Happiness, was Gayaneh, including the celebrated Sabre Dance. This was, in fact, a late addition to the ballet; Khachaturian initially regarded this piece initially as something of a joke, and then an embarrassment which overshadowed his other music, including some very fine numbers from that same ballet.
The ballet exists in at least two versions – the 1942 version which contains all the favourite numbers, and the extensively restructured 1957 version – and three official orchestral suites were arranged by the composer. In addition, a number of conductors, including Khachaturian himself, have compiled further collections of numbers, often following a musically rather than dramatically effective sequence.
Apart from the bold Armen’s Variation, which also appears in Suite No. 1, Suite No. 2 compiles lesser-known but charming numbers, such as the catchy Dance of Welcome. The Suite also presents striking and often comic contrasts between imported Russian popular dances (Russian Dance and Nouné’s Variation) and the more authentic Caucasian dances such as Dance of the Old Man and the Carpet-Weavers. Lyrical Duet includes a dose of genuine Caucasian style, and also, fans of Sabre Dance will note, a theme which appears as a lyrical episode in that popular number. Fire, a vivid portrait of the cotton farm set aflame due to the evil machinations of Gayaneh’s husband Giko, makes a powerful finale to this suite.
Note by Daniel Jaffé