Aram Khachaturian: Sabre Dance

Context

Aram Khachaturian’s ever-popular Sabre Dance is originally part of the final act of the composer’s 1942 ballet Gayane. The music accompanies the dancers as they show their skills with sabres. Sabre Dance has become a signature piece in 20th century repertoire, with it often being performed as a stand-alone piece as an encore. 

 

The Music

The opening is driven by off-beats played by the strings and percussion. The main melody enters, with the marimba being at the forefront of the melody. The woody tones of the instrument shines through here. Against the main melody are the brass, most notably the trombones, who play comedic slide movements between the main melody. 

There is a sense of sheer excitement and intensity throughout the dance, even in the slightly slower middle section. The music here is based on an Armenian folk song, which is said to often be used at Armenian weddings. The off-beats continue even throughout this section to keep the tempo running along.

The bombastic material from the opening explodes once more with the percussion and brass leading the way now. There is a quick percussion interlude before the upper brass take the lead of the melody. The orchestra unite for a final proclamation of the theme before a descending sequence is heard. A petite flute and marimba ascending sequence is heard before the bass drum strikes the final note of the piece.

 

Final Thoughts

Sabre Dance is a real whirlwind for orchestra. From the fast tempo, to the exciting melodies and comedic side, the music oozes excitement and intensity all at the same time. A great crowd-pleaser, Sabre Dance is heard regularly in concert halls around the world.

 

Happy Reading!

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