There are at least six pieces here that should be recognisable outside of their balletic context by the classical music listener, which shows how well Khachaturian's music has proved to be amenable to different milieus. The adagio from `Spartacus' became the theme tune to `The Onedin Line', whilst the adagio from `Gayane' featured in Kubrick's `2001, A Space Odyssey', both adagios a long way from their original context set in the famous slave revolt of ancient Rome and the collective farms of Soviet Armenia respectively.
On this disc we have extracts taken from his three ballets `Masquerade' (1941), `Gayane' (1942), and `Spartacus' (1954). Combining the exoticism of Rimsky Korsakov and an eastern (Armenian) ear for colour, Aram Khachaturian was a master of orchestration. Throughout these pieces, one can compare and rank Khachaturian as an equal of his contemporaries Prokofiev and Shostakovich in this genre, and also with Borodin, Tchaikovsky, and even Ravel.
Some Naxos CDs are brilliant, some are very poor; this one's quality is middling. One senses that this is not due just to the orchestra's performance, but that also the CD's production has contributed. The sound is not as clear as one would have liked, being a little to distant; rather than playing `here', the orchestra are playing `over there'. But the orchestra are not totally blameless, for there is occasionally an echoing fragility in the strings, especially in the all-important adagios. The playing in `Dance of the Gaditanae-Victory of Spartacus' is frankly quite embarrassing, and yet one can enthuse over the playing in the following `Dance of an Egyptian Girl'. Moreover, there is a lack of co-ordination between different parts of the ensemble in the `Lullaby' from `Gayane', and the horns could do better in the following opening fanfare of `Choosing the Bride'.
But with seventy-eight minutes of music, one could argue you are still obtaining one's money's worth nevertheless. Overall, this disc is OK = three stars.