Classical Music

Chess or Khachaturian?

A few weeks ago, I attended a concert of the Westerville Symphony Orchestra up on the north side of Columbus.  It was a very enjoyable concert in which a lot of music was played that I’d never heard before. New music.  Loved it.  Oddly though, one of the pieces stood out as being vaguely familiar.  I knew I hadn’t heard it before but it sounded so familiar because of that stereotypical Soviet – almost militant and seemingly domineering – sound it had.  It also sounded familiar because I knew, I just knew, I’d heard it.

The piece in question is Aram Khachaturian’s Masquerade Waltz.  I didn’t really like it.  It was played well and the live performance beat the recording I’d heard on youtube earlier that morning, hands down (mostly because of the quicker tempo chosen by Maestro Wilson) but I didn’t really like it.  It’s just not a style of music I like.

Here’s that Youtube recording.  Listen to the rhythm of the instruments in the background and then to the strings from about 20-26 seconds in.

For a while, it just bugged me.  Though I knew I hadn’t heard this exact piece before, it just sounded so incredibly familiar.  There were parts of it, in particular the first 25-30 seconds or so, that I knew I’d heard. Where did this come from?  Where did I hear it? I knew it but I couldn’t figure out where!

Then it hit me.  David Carroll.  The late Broadway star who played the original Anatoly in the musical Chess.

CHESS!  That’s IT!

Near the beginning of the musical, the character, Anatoly, sings a song called “Where I Want To Be.”  Listen to the first little bit and you’ll hear a similar rhythm in the background like what you just heard in the Masquerade Waltz. Then, at 40 seconds or so, you’ll hear a similar strings entry like is played.

Can you see how I can easily think of Chess when I hear the Masquerade Waltz?

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