KHACHATURIAN: Spartacus, Suite No. 4 / Masquerade / Circus

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Aram Il'yichKhachaturian (1903 - 1978)

Spartacus: Suite No.4

?á?á?á?á?á Bacchante's Melancholy Dance

?á?á?á?á?á Spartacus' Procession

?á?á?á?á?á Death of the Gladiator

?á?á?á?á?á Call to Anns: Spartacus'Uprising

Masquerade: Suite

?á?á?á?á?á Waltz

?á?á?á?á?á Nocturne

?á?á?á?á?á Mazurka

?á?á?á?á?á Romance

?á?á?á?á?á Galop

Circus: Ballet Music

Dance Suite

?á?á?á?á?á Trans-Caucasian Dance

?á?á?á?á?á Annenian Dance

?á?á?á?á?á Uzbek Dance Tune

?á?á?á?á?á Uzbek March

?á?á?á?á?á Lezghinka


The Armenian composer Aram Khachaturianwas born in Thlisi in 1903 and had his musical training at the Gnesin Music Academy in Moscow, entering in 1929 the Moscow Conservatory,where he was a pupil of Prokofiev's friend and mentor, Miaskovsky. Heestablished himself as a composer during the 1930s and held official positionsin the Union of Soviet Composers, although he was included in the condemnationof fonnalism, together with Shostakovich and Prokofiev, in 1948. Neverthelesshis style of composition, with the use of regional elements from Armenia andelsewhere in the southern areas of the Soviet Union, in the end ensured hiscontinuing reputation, enhanced once more, after the death of Stalin in 1953,by his ballet Spartacus, a work that combined spectacle in its crowdscenes and attention to individual virtuosity in its solos, with a plot thatcould not but satisfy the ideals of the regime. Writing in a tonal idiom withrichly coloured orchestration, Khachaturian was opposed to modem experiment incomposition and in spite of the condemnation of 1948 held publicly that Sovietcomposers enjoyed a creative freedom impossible in the West, with its modemisingfashions, to which subservience was obligatory. During his life-time hereceived ll1any honours, including in 1954 the title People's Artist. He diedin 1978.


The ballet Spartacus, the scoreof which was completed in 1954, deals with the slave rebellion led by the heroof that name against Roman domination. The historical Spartacus himself wasThracian by birth, a shepherd who became a robber. He was taken prisoner andsold to a trainer of gladiators in Capua, but in 73 BC he escaped, with other prisoners, and led a rebellionduring the course of which he defeated the Roman armies and caused devastationthroughout Italy. He waseventually defeated by Crassus, a general well known for his wealth, and put todeath by crucifixion, together with his followers. It should be added that toKarl Marx Spartacus was the first great proletarian hero, a champion of thepeople, while the ultimate fate of Crassus, killed in 53 BC during the courseof a campaign that had taken him to Armena, might have had a particularsignificance for Khachaturian.



was first produced at the Kirov Theatre in Leningrad in 1956, with choreography by Leonid Jacobson, and was re-staged atthe Bolshoy in Moscow two yearslater, with choreography by Igor Moiseyev. The relative failure of these productionswas followed by what must be seen as the definitive version at the Bolshoy in1968, with choreography and a revised libretto by Yury Grigorovich, Vladimir Vasilyevas Spartacus and Ekaterina Maximova as Phrygia.


The ballet opens in Rome, where Crassus is buying Thracianprisoners, including Spartacus and his wife Phrygia. Spartacus will not accept his fate. In the second scene the slavesare sold, below the walls of the Capitol, and Phrygia, separated now from her husband, laments her uncertain fate. Shehas been bought by Crassus and in his villa his mistress Aegina mocks her fears: she herself caresonly for power, money and dissolute living. In an orgy two blindfold slavestrained as gladiators are brought in and made to fight each other to the death.

One of them wins and reveals himself as Spartacus, dismayed now at havingkilled a fellow-slave. He wonders what his fate will be. The scene changes tothe barracks of the gladiators, where Spartacus urges his fellow-slaves tofight for freedom. They swear to follow him.


The second of the three acts of thefinal version opens with a shepherd dance. Runaway slaves arrive and urge themto join the revolt, with Spartacus as their leader. He resolves to find and setfree his wife Phrygia. Crassuscelebrates his triumph and Spartacus now learns of Phrygia's fate. During a banquet given by Crassus, Spartacus escapes with Phrygia. Aegina does her best to gain her ends by dominating Crassus, who himselfhas grandiose political ambitions: he uses force and she uses her wits, butboth have similar aims. At his villa the guests of Crassus celebrate, but newsis brought that Spartacus and his men have surrounded the place. Crassus, Aegina and the nobles make their escape,leaving the slaves in charge of the villa. Spartacus realises that Romanstrength lies in its armies and in the subservience of the people: in fact theRomans are cowards. In the fourth scene of the act Crassus is defeated andbrought before

Spartacus, who insists on single combat,rather than putting his enemy to death. Crassus loses, but is spared bySpartacus, who sends him contemptuously away.


The third act brings a conspiracyagainst Spartacus. Crassus is urged by Aegina to seek revenge and raises an army for the purpose. Aegina has time to give vent to her hatredof Spartacus and in the following scene enters the slave camp by night. Phrygia is uneasy and Spartacus tries tocalm her. A messenger brings news of the advance of the Roman legions, againstwhich Spartacus has a daring plan, to which his immediate supporters object. Aegina, meanwhile, with the help of thetraitor Harmodius, is still intent on revenge. This she accomplishes as theslaves wait for their leader's battle signal. She now plies them with wine andbrings women to corrupt and weaken them, leading to their defeat by Crassus andher own reward. Crassus is determined that they shall die. In a final battleSpartacus is surrounded and captured, to be raised up on legionary spears. Phrygia comes to seek him, and is leftmourning over his dead body.


The first three suites from the balletwere arranged by the composer between 1955 and 1957, with a fourth suite in1967, before the revision of the score for the Bolshoy in 1968. Music in thesuites is taken from various scenes in the ballet, forming coherent musicalsequences that do not necessarily follow the order of dramatic events in theoriginal ballet.


The colourful incidental music for aproduction in 1941 of Lermontov's Masquerade serves its purposeadmirably. The drama itself has, over the years, attracted a number of Russiancomposers, from Kolesnikov in the
Disc: 1
Dance Suite
1 Bacchante's Melancholy Dance
2 Spartacus Procession
3 Death of the Gladiator
4 Call to Arms - Spartacus' Uprising
5 Waltz
6 Nocturne
7 Mazurka
8 Romance
9 Gallop
10 Circus
11 Trans-Caucasian Dance
12 Armenian Dance
13 Uzbek Dance Tune
14 Uzbek March
15 Lezghinka
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