Khachaturian was a composer who, like his contemporary Shostakovich, created his most famous works under the severe conditions of Stalinist Russia. Easily the most popular of these pieces is "Sabre Dance," a rollicking, joyous and frenzied orchestral suite that's bursting with a boisterous rhythmic intensity. Khachaturian was born to a Russian-Armenian family; many of his pieces feature extensive use of Middle and Central Asian scales that give these works an exotic, distinctly non-European flavor. In an age where Modernism in music brought about full-scale revolutionaries like Stravinsky and Prokofiev, critics point out a lack of depth and too many lightweight moments in his music. It is perhaps these very things, however, which kept him (generally speaking) in good graces with the Soviet leadership.