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July 12, 2012 11:16 AM   Subscribe

Music recommendation: like Khachaturian at his most brash.

I know nothing about composers and their music. I don't even know if I can call it all "classical" music or "orchestral compositions for neo-classical ballet" or what. All I know is that I ended up in love with Aram Khachaturian and I want more music like his. It was the first "classical" music that I listened to and thought, "I NEED TO PAY MONEY FOR MORE OF THIS."

To be more clear, I love his ballet music, specifically (and because you know Khachaturian you knew this was coming) Spartacus and Gay[ane/ne/aneh whichever]. The first CD I picked up has four tracks at the end called 'The Seasons' and they're okay, but further research shows that they might be by Glazunov and not Khachaturian? I am unsure.

Anyway, here's what I'm Ask-ing of you - who else wrote music like this? I keep seeing that Khachaturian was fairly unique in his incorporation of Armenian folk music, so perhaps there's no one else. That would be sad.

I love how brassy and upbeat and explosive it all is. My favorite track right now is the Scene and Dance with Crotala [Crotalums? these translators need to come to a consensus] if that gives you a better lead.

Bonus points if you can tell me how to properly define this music so that A.) I could have asked this question more succinctly and B.) I can talk about this with someone who knows music and not totally embarrass myself.
posted by komara to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Khachaturian was a quintessential Russian composer of that time, along with (early) Stravinsky, Prokofiev, and Shostakovich.

For orchestral works, I might start you out with Stravinsky's "The Firebird," (The Infernal Dance of King Kashchei) which is a pretty common ballet, but has a lot of the qualities you like. It's not quite as kinetic as Khachaturian, but it might scratch the folk music itch (Russian more than Armenian).

Depending on how dissonant you want to get, Bartok may have some what you'd like. Check out Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celeste (Mvt 2).

Another area you may want to look at is wind band works (I do instrumental music education, so I live in this world a bit more than in my old musicology days). There's some stuff you might definitely like that has the kineticism that Khachaturian has.

Try Armenian Dances, especially the last bit.

Also, Yiddish Dances (mvt 1, 2, 3, 4 (one link), and 5. Again, they're all pretty kinetic, but the last movement of this one might be right up your alley.

This is what I've got so far. If these scratch the itch (any or all), let me know, and I'll see what else I can find.
posted by SNWidget at 11:40 AM on July 12, 2012

Best answer: You might like Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. (Plus I love this particular performance.)

A slightly more unknown option might be Dutilleux's "Metaboles."

I would maybe call this particular style and era of music Neoclassical or maybe just Early Modern.

And if you're feeling like you want to go a step toward the harder stuff of modern music, check out Webern's Six Pieces for Orchestra.
posted by daisystomper at 11:58 AM on July 12, 2012

Best answer: The suggestions above are good. Stravinsky's major Romantic & Modern works have been mentioned already.

Some of the more nationalistic music of Shostakovich might suit you well; some of his music used Russian folk melodies. Check out his Symphonies Nos. 7, 11, or 12; No. 5 is a little more dissonant but is one of his most popular, so that might be worth a listen too.

Prokofiev is a little more dissonant, but I particularly like his Symphony No. 5. His orchestral suites might be up your alley, too: "The Love For Three Oranges" (from an opera), "Lieutenant Kijé" (from a movie), and the "Scythian Suite" (for a never-completed ballet.)

Also, the Khachaturian pieces you mentioned are heavily used/quoted in the soundtrack to The Hudsucker Proxy, so go watch that.
posted by Johnny Assay at 1:56 PM on July 12, 2012

re Stravinsky: Petrouchka is the one you want.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 2:02 PM on July 12, 2012

Some more ideas.

Johnny Assay got me thinking about Tchaikovsky and other Russian composers. I'm going to recommend "Dance of the Jesters/Tumblers/Buffoons" from the Snow Maiden.

I'm linking to the band transcription (Marine Band), mainly because I can't find an orchestra version on Youtube I like as much. Surprisingly, I can't find a definitive statement if it's from the incidental music Tchaikovsky wrote for the play, or the opera written by Rimsky-Korasakov. I may dig more just to satiate my curiosity on that one.

I think everyone here is in the right part of the world and time period for what you're looking for, though. Russian composers (from the late 1800s through a good chunk of the 20th century) had a nationalistic sound that may match what you like.

For something that may have similar qualities to what you like (at least it does to me), try Bernstein's "Overture" from his operetta, Candide. It may be a little too cutesy for what you're thinking, though.
posted by SNWidget at 2:09 PM on July 12, 2012

Oh, I forgot: Kabalevsky's Colas Breugnon Overture.
posted by Johnny Assay at 2:26 PM on July 12, 2012

Response by poster: First up, thank you all for your comments! I wish I could plow through all these suggestions in one night but it's not like "give me your best 3-minute pop songs" so I can't just skip around and listen for some hooks and choruses, you know?

I had some Shostakovich tracks that came attached to the end of a Khachaturian CD I got from the library. I ended up disliking them but now I wish I'd written down the names so I'd know what I'd listened to. I will gladly give him another chance based on your specific recommendations.

Working my way through The Firebird now, looking forward to listening to the other tracks suggested. Thank you all!
posted by komara at 6:39 PM on July 12, 2012

Response by poster: Just looked it up, it was Shostakovich's Symphony #5 that didn't do it for me. Maybe I just wanted something more upbeat at the time. I'll have to check it out again.
posted by komara at 6:42 PM on July 12, 2012

It did not occur to me until I just heard it on the radio but I would suggest Leoš Janáček's Sinfonietta (YT link is only the first part of the piece).

This was written for a big, brassy orchestra and it is definitely upbeat.
posted by mountmccabe at 6:54 AM on July 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

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