Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Karabits – Khachaturian’s Gayaneh & Spartacus

0 of 5 stars

Gayaneh [selections]
Spartacus [selections]

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
Kirill Karabits

Recorded 1 & 2 July 2010 in Lighthouse, Poole, UK

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: November 2010
CD No: ONYX 4063
Duration: 73 minutes



Don’t panic, both the ‘Sabre Dance’ and “The Onedin Line” signature-tune are present and correct. This generous selection from two of Khachaturian’s ballet-scores, Gayaneh and Spartacus, of roughly 35 minutes each, find the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Kirill Karabits in terrific form as they launch their association with Onyx.

Attractively slinky and languorous from the off, the movements from Spartacus (1956) are particularly beguiling and picturesque, swaying with potency, and leaving no doubt that the story is told through dance, the music engaging and passionate. Come ‘Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia’ (cueing “The Onedin Line” credits), this is brought off with finesse and sensitivity before irrepressibly sweeping to a grand climax.

The Gayaneh assortment is slightly less successful, mostly due to Gennadi Rozhdestvensky and the Leningrad Philharmonic having set-down fifty years ago for Deutsche Grammophon eight fabulously realised movements. Take ‘Lezginka’, so percussively lucid and discriminating (allowing pizzicatos through) in Leningrad but something of a free-for-all in Bournemouth; but then, at every turn, Rozhdestvensky’s unsurpassable highlights are cheekier, more soulful and more rip-roaring, the music molten in his hands, than Karabits makes them).

That said, the BSO’s compilation is very enjoyably performed, but lacks the ethnicity of the Leningraders, and Karabits doesn’t clarify textures or suggest the music’s potential in the way that Rozhdestvensky so memorably does. It’s not that Karabits is ‘wrong’, it’s simply that he’s up against a genuinely definitive recording. ‘Sabre Dance’ (or ‘Sword Dance’ as Onyx has it) is very well done, though, and the collection ends with a ‘knees-up’ in the form of a ‘Hopak’ (although, harmonically, we are left frustrated in mid-air, the ear expecting something additional to resolve things).

If, in Gayaneh, Rozhdestvensky has the field to himself and is ring-fenced, then we shouldn’t forget the composer himself recorded suites from both these scores for Decca with the Vienna Philharmonic (first issued on LP with the iconic catalogue number of SXL 6000) and then less successfully rendered selections with the LSO (for EMI). Strong competition for Karabits, then, and, comparisons aside, he does much that is very agreeable and infectious, and clearly he and the Bournemouth Symphony have established a vibrant partnership that serves well both of these colourful and suggestive scores.

Recorded in what often seems the troublesome and over-reverberant location of the Lighthouse, Simon Kiln and Arne Akselberg (engineer) produce a fuller and more-immediate sound than is often the case in this location; there is though some remoteness to certain instruments (violins for instance) and some thickness in fortissimos, but for the most part the sound, like the music, is gorgeous and generously reproduces what seems to have been a good time for the musicians and the conductor.

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