The ballets of Aram Khachaturian (1903-1978) occupy a special place in the history of Soviet ballet and of Soviet music. Considered along with Dmitri Shostakovich and Sergei Prokofiev as one of the leaders of Soviet music, Khachaturian devoted many years to the creation of ballet, although in the end he produced only three ballet scores: Schast'e [Happiness], completed in 1939; Gayane, completed in 1942; and Spartak [Spartacus], completed in 1954. Of these three, Gayane and Spartacus (both repeatedly revised) were notably successful, both immediately acclaimed as important new achievements in the development of an identifiably Soviet ballet style. Taken on tour abroad by the Bolshoi Ballet in a revised version, Spartacus also became one of the most internationally successful ballets written by a Soviet composer, although it never came close to equaling the international recognition eventually achieved by Prokofiev's Soviet ballets Romeo and Juliet or Cinderella. Gayane was not widely staged outside the USSR, but some of the music from the ballet, arranged into three orchestral suites by the composer, became very popular internationally—particularly the “Sabre Dance,” which became the single most recognized piece of Khachaturian, recycled repeatedly in Hollywood film scores.
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