This is fascinating. Karayev was a pupil of Shostakovich whose
music is heavily indebted to the music of his native Azerbaijan.
Little of his music has been reviewed so far on MusicWeb.
The Editor tackled a now long deleted Russian Revelation disc
Violin Concertos” in the site’s early days. This included
Karayev’s Violin Concerto of 1968. The disc was in RR’s Rare
Repertoire series and the Karayev shared space with concertos
by Knipper, Khrennikov and Rakov. Karayev in fact wrote three
symphonies. A work
list can be found here. There is also an informative Wikipedia
article where the the composer’s name is rendered as “Gara Garayev”.
the symphony starts absolutely à la (le?) Shostakovich, it
soon veers off into a more overtly serialist world. This was
one of the early Soviet works to use twelve-note rows. Motor
rhythms emerge in what is essentially a collage of a movement.
Piano clusters add colour. Some moments of strain in the violins
presage an episode of true discomfort from this section in
the second movement; just before three minutes in.
back cover of the disc refers to “the five-hundred-year-old
ashug melody” in the second movement. What we get is
a serialist’s take on ashug: “I wanted to prove that,
strictly following twelve-tone technique, it is possible to
write nationalistic music”, said the composer in relation
to this movement. The music is appealingly charming, as it
turns out, with frequent glances at a sort of distorted Prokofiev.
I can imagine a performance of this music that dances just
a little more, but in the circumstances it seems positively
churlish to cavil. The “slow” movement - it is marked Andante
- is the still heart of the symphony. It boasts a truly beautiful
oboe melody, wonderfully played here, that alone justifies
the purchase of this disc. The finale is generally contrapuntal,
serious and contemplative. The major fugal part strains the
Russian Philharmonic Orchestra players somewhat here, but
it remains fascinating. This is particularly the case with
the sparing use of the harpsichord and, in the slow, ruminative
coda, the piano.
symphonic poem Leyla and Mejnun won a Stalin prize
in 1948. Inspired by the twelfth-century Azerbaijani poet
Nizami, Leyla and Mejnun relates a tale of “star-cross’d
lovers” united in death. The opening section is deliberately
oppressive; there then follows the struggle against fate before
a theme of love joins the fray. If there is the odd touch
of the pedestrian in the writing, it really does occur in
passing. Generally there is plenty of character here. The
quiet end is particularly memorable.
the wonderful subtitle, Symphonic Engravings. The musical
material comes from music to the film that carries the same
name. The eight sections describe a sequence of Quixote’s
adventures. A movement called Travels appears like
a Mussorgskian “Promenade”. This is by far the most appealing
music on the disc – some sections even verge on the carefree,
and the musical language is more approachable than that of
the Third Symphony. The movement entitled Aldonse is
slow and of gossamer-light scoring with a lovely, winding
flute melody, while Pavan reveals a very real nobility.
The penultimate movement, Cavalcade takes us mightily
close to the world of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet
but it is the keening string laments of Don Quixote’s Death
that make the greatest impression.
is repertoire explorations such as this that give hope in this