Kara Karayev (1918-1982): The Seven Beauties; The Path of Thunder (Ballet Suites) / Royal PO, Yablonsky Apr06

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Tonal and ConsonantOrchestral
Naxos Record Label – Naxos: The #1 independent classical music distributor in the U.S. and Canada; specializing in state-of-the-art physical & digital distribution services, marketing and promotion. Celebrating 25 years in 2012.
Release Date: 2013-12-10

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Kara Karayev: The Seven Beauties; The Path of Thunder (Ballet Suites) / Royal PO, Yablonsky

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With the release of this second CD from Naxos of music for orchestra by Azerbaijani composer Kara Karayev, the current catalog has on offer three full programs of music by this fine composer. The previous Naxos release was of Karayev's Symphony No. 3 and two tone poems; this new release offers his major ballet suites, The Seven Beauties (1953) and The Path of Thunder (1958). There is no reason whatsoever to shy away from this album if you avoid the acrid tonalities of much 20th century music; Karayev's music is very easy to enjoy - saturated with exotic colors it can be hair-raisingly exciting or deliriously beautiful.

Kara Karayev (1918-1982) was born in Azerbaijan, a country on the Caspian Sea bordering Russian, Georgia, Armenia and Iran. The most prominent Azerbaijani composer of the Soviet era, he was among Shostakovich's most esteemed students and wrote in a variety of genres including ballets, operas, chamber music, symphonic poems, cantatas and solo piano music. His conservative leanings kept him in good stead with Russian authorities, and he won the Stalin Prize for music in 1945 and again in 1948.

Karayev's vivid music draws on many influences. Aside from the great Russian composers of the 20th century, Shostakovich, Prokofiev and Khachaturian you can hear a multitude of influences including Ravel from Western Europe (I hear a lot of Ravel's influence in this music) and Kodály from Central Europe. From Karayev's own homeland on the Russian border, Azerbaijan folk melodies and harmonies color the music with their peculiar scalar patterns derived from the orient. Then there are sounds from Turkey, Spain and Africa as well as contemporary genres such as jazz. All of these influences coalesce in Karayev's distinctive, eclectic and engaging music.

This program benefits from magnificent readings by the Royal Philharmonic under the direction Maestro Dmitry Yablonsky and superb sonics from Naxos. You can hear the opening Waltz from The Seven Beauties in the sidebar video and a selection of clips from the CD in the Naxos supplied video below.