Gayaneh- First Suite from the ballet (1943)
Boosey & Hawkes / Sikorski
1.Sabre Dance 2.Ayesha’s Dance 3.Dance of the Rose-Maidens 4.The Mountaineers 5.Lullaby 6.Dance of the Young Kurds 7.Armen’s variation 8.Lezhginka
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.
Khachaturian's Suite No.1 includes the popular Sabre Dance, and other exciting dances such as Mountaneers with its aggressively stomping brass and percussion, the bold and masculine Armen’s Variation, and the sure-fire Lezhginka with its opportunity for virtuosic drumming and exciting syncopations. Suite No.1 also includes such gentler dances as the perky Dance of the Rose-Maidens, and the gentle syncopations of Dance of the Young Kurds, well complemented with such soulful numbers as the Lullaby, and Ayesha’s dance.
Note by Daniel Jaffé