Orchestral Works/Kara Karayev

January 13, 2009

karayevBorn in Baku and heavily influenced by his traditional folk music of Azerbaijani music, Kara spent 20 years of study at the Baku Music Academy and the Moscow Conservatory studying composition under the guiding hand of Dmitry Shostakovich. Not only can you hear Shostakovich but also the influences of Tchaikovksy, Miaskovosky, and Prokofiev as well. With over 100 compositions to his credit there has been very little of his work recorded outside of his country and this reviewer hopes that the release of this Naxos CD 8.570720( first time these works are on CD) and review will result in more interest and future recordings. His Symphony No. 3 (1964) definitely has a sound like Shostakovich, but his unique stamp is on it and is a wonderful addition to your collection of Russian symphonies. The 25+ minute work is written in 4 movements using 12 tone techniques incorporating folk music (ashug) melodies, and a harsh staccato rhythm accented with piano. The third movement is an andante and a good one offering a simple mood setting again using the twelve tone but certainly written in a way that the average listener could appreciate this misunderstood musical form. The final movement offers an excellent fugue and ends with an extremely slow coda complete with piano chords.

Leyla and Mejnun (1947) Inspired by the 12th-century poet Nizami, Kara composed a tone poem telling the tragic tale of a Tristan and Isolde, or a Romeo and Juliet story. The 13 plus minute work was awarded the Stalin prize and is an excellent melodic one. It opens with a heavy sounding Russian theme, very stoic and tragic in nature and is further developed by the clarinet and the brass, evoking sad feelings even further. There is a powerful Tchaikovsky like bridge that leads into a heartfelt love theme offering a momentary ray of sunlight from the darkness. It quickly returns to the original tragic theme, a brief statement of the love theme once more and ends abruptly in mystery and tragedy.

Don Quixote (Symphonic Engravings) (1960) is based on a Grigory Kozintsev film, Don Quixote, which he wrote the music for, the 8 part suite is another theme filled composition which could very easily be mistaken for Hollywood music. One immediately can conjure up a Rozsa epic as you listen to “Sancho, the Governor,” Newman’s string writing in “Travels,” and harmonic chords that sound like Friedhofer in the delicate “Pavan.” The conclusion, “Don Quixote’s Death” is a well written elegiac theme with a return to the main theme in the opening to conclude the work.

Naxos has always been willing to record and introduce material to the listener for the very first time. This CD certainly fit’s the description and is one that the classical and soundtrack listener will enjoy. This reviewer only hopes that there will be more offerings in the future from this fine composer. Recommended.

Naxos CD# is 8.570720
Dmitry Yablonsky conducted the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra

Track Listing:
1-4 Symphony No. 3
5 Leyla and Mejnun
6-13 Don Quixote
Total Time is 58:10

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