Khachaturian brightly captured

BSO brings out the bright vibe in Khachaturian’s two best-known ballet scores, but can’t keep up the joyful pace

Composer:  Khachaturian
Repertoire: Spartacus excerpts; Gayaneh excerpts 
Artists: Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Kirill Karabits
Rating:  3/5
Genre: Orchestral
Label: Onyx 4063

The Music: Khachaturian’s two best-known ballets are almost too full of dazzling folk melodies from his native Armenia. Yet for all his music’s fecundity and the immediate appeal of Adagio from Gayaneh (older readers will recognise The Onedin Line) or Sabre Dance from Spartacus, there is a circus-y shallowness to it, like the happy smile of a labourer in a socialist realist painting.

The Performance: Karabits elicits thrillingly bright tone from the Bournemouth players who take naturally to the off-beat rhythms and joyful, holiday atmosphere of both ballets. The strings are rich-toned in the Dance of the Girls and Aysha Monologue and the wind calls on fine soloists. The clarinet calls seductively in Uzundera, the oboe sings of the steppe in Aysha and Gayane. Both scores are a percussionist’s field-day: hand-drums, xylophones and glockenspiel provide folksy colour. Yet the musicians seem to tire of the unrelieved optimism and one senses a certain insouciance by the time the sabres are out.

The Verdict: Nice playing – shame about the music. It lacks the depth for long listening and satisfies only in short bursts. Want More? The good Soviet Khachaturian allows more of his feelings to show in the concertos for violin and piano. Oistrakh plays the former on EMI (555 0352), Berezovsky the latter on Warner (2564 63074-2). Rick Jones