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Khachaturian was enjoying a good period in 1941, musically speaking at least. He had not long written his music for the ballet Happiness and his Violin Concerto.
So when he was asked to provide incidental music for the revival of a play by Lermontov – and feeling he was on a roll – he quickly agreed. Soon, however, he was beginning to regret his decision as the theme for a central waltz in the production eluded him.
There is a section of the plot where Lermontov has the play’s principal character, Nina, say, ‘How beautiful the new waltz is!’ she goes on to describe a work somewhere between sorrow and joy.
Perhaps it was the pressure of so naked a line, the plaudit weighing heavily on his shoulders that caused him the sleepless nights. Soon, with a little help from a friendly teacher, he had his theme – and its exuberant place at the heart of this suite is probably the biggest single reason for its success. Loris Tjeknavorian, conducting the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra, gives not only a nationalistically authentic performance, but a simply stunning one, too.
Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra; Loris Tjeknavorian (conductor). ASV: CDDCA772.