As we celebrate the composer Khachaturian, we want to do an extra highlight of our release “Vodka and Caviar.” Vodka and Caviar features Khachaturian’s Suite from Gayeneh: Sabre Dance, Dance of the Rose Maidens, Lullaby, and Lezginka. Masquerade Suite: Waltz, Nocturne, Mazurka, Romance, and Galop.
Vodka and Caviar — The Ultimate Russian Spectacular • Constantine Orbelian, conductor • Philharmonia of Russia • Spiritual Revival Choir of Russia DE 3288
Khachaturian: Suite from Gayeneh: Sabre Dance, Dance of the Rose Maidens, Lullaby, Lezginka • Adagio from Spartacus • Borodin: Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor • Tchaikovsky: Grand Polonaise from Eugene Onegin • Waltz from Swan Lake • Waltz from Sleeping Beauty • Khachaturian: Masquerade Suite; Waltz, Nocturne, Mazurka, Romance, Galop
“The sound is truly spectacular… the recording contains some wonderful music …Orbelian, born in America of Russian and Armenian emigré parents, has a real feel for this material, and the Philharmonia of Russia plays with precision and verve. The recording is simply a lot of fun; you’d have to be a thoroughly jaded curmudgeon not to enjoy it. File this one under ‘Guilty Pleasures,’ if you like, but don’t miss it.” Stereophile
“San Francisco native Orbelian has become the most popular American conductor to record in Russia, where he heads several orchestras, including this one employing Russia’s best instrumentalists. The program is unabashedly popular… two Khachaturian suites, plus the swoony love duet from ‘Spartacus’… Tchaikovsky con brio… [and] the complete ‘Polovtsian Dances… a good time is had by all.” San Francisco Examiner
This exhilarating symphonic “spectacular” of grand and exquisite music from Russian Ballet and Theater is played by Constantine’s crème de la crème Philharmonia of Russia. Stirring music of Khachaturian shares the program with favorites of Borodin and Tchaikovsky. Because it is also a sonic blockbuster, this disc was quickly snapped up as a demo for sound developments via Sony’s DSD recording technology, and to show off hardware at A/V conventions. Amelia Haygood remarked that she had so many favorite tracks on this album that it was hard to settle on one for a demo. You won’t get the true sonic impact from the samples here, but the musical excitement leaps out in any format.
George Loomis provides an interesting background on some of the musical colors in this album:
As Russian composers developed an appetite for depicting facets of their vast and diverse country, it was only natural that they would seek out new and spectacular musical colors. Regional folk elements, whether from Western Russia or the exotic East, in themselves add color, yet their effect is multiplied when the full resources of the orchestra are brought to bear.
The Polovtsian Dances’ strong oriental flavor is a product of their role in the opera’s drama [Prince Igor]. They constitute the exotic entertainment that the Polovtsian warrior Khan Konchak provides for the Russian Prince Igor, whom he has defeated in battle and holds captive but is determined to treat with all due respect. The Grand Polonaise from the opera Eugene Onegin creates the perfect atmosphere for the party scene in which the jaded Onegin finds himself smitten by the girl he once rejected. A certain similarity exists between the familiar waltzes from the ballets Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty; each waltz embodies a peasant celebration.
In the 20th century, orchestral virtuosity was a hallmark of any Russian composer worth his salt, and none exploited the orchestra’s potential more enthusiastically or with greater confidence than Aram Khachaturian… Suites from Khachaturian’s colorful ballet scores Gayaneh and Spartacus have become popular for their bracing rhythms and vivid percussion (Saber Dance and Lezginka) as well as his evocative melodies (Lullaby and Adagio). The incidental music for Lermontov’s play Masquerade…”vibrantly reinforces the play‘s aura of intrigue and glitter amidst the ballrooms of 19th century St. Petersburg.”
A biographical note about the wonderful young Spiritual Revival Choir of Russia, heard here in the Polovtsian Dances: the choir was formed at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the music of the Orthodox Church could once again be performed freely. The name of the Choir celebrates this Orthodox revival. The Choir has made some highly praised recordings for us on its own, including “Serene Ecstasy,” and “Sounds on My Spirit.”