Azerbaijani Piano Concertos
Fikret AMIROV (1922-1984) and Elmira NAZIROVA (b. 1928)
Piano Concerto after Arabian Themes (1957) [24:56]
Yasif ADIGEZALOV (1935-2006)
Piano Concerto No. 4 (1994) [28:08]
Tofig GULIYEV (1917-2000)
Gaytagi - dance for piano and orchestra (1958-60) [3:41]
Farhad BADALBEYLI (b.1947)
The Sea for piano and orchestra (1977) [7:54]; Shusha (2003) [4:24]
Farhad Badalbeyli (piano)
Murad Adigezalzade (piano)
Joan Rodgers (soprano)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Dmitry Yablonsky
rec. Cadogan Hall, London, 9, 11-12July 2010. DDD
NAXOS 8.572666 [68:52]

Long ago won over to exotica - at least as filtered through the western cultutre - I find this disc irresistible.

I am a sucker for Rimsky's Capriccio Espagnol, Ippolitov-Ivanov's Mtsyry and Caucasian Sketches, Farwell's Gods of the Mountains, Parker's and Freitas Branco's Vathek and Biarent’s Contes d'Orient along with swathes of similarly minded Herrmann and Rozsa.

The present collection's Arabian rose-petal fragrance is a winner. Take the Amirov Arabian Concerto. It seamlessly and delightfully blends the populist manner of the Kabalevsky piano concertos and Shostakovich 2 with a middle eastern ambience - both sultry and sinister. It's not without romantic grandstanding in a pretty clear echo of Rachmaninov. The Adigezalov is likewise in three movements and also picks up on the Eastern voice. This time it's more in the manner of Khachaturian. This feels a shade more profound than the Amirov. It too has that dapper attack and rhythmic ‘hook’. The Andante is coolly romantic and the final Allegro pounds with euphoria. Guliyev's Gaytagi is flashy with the machine-gun gambolling delivery of a Liszt or Godowsky. It's an affable piece of light music redolent a little of the Litolff Scherzo. Then two pieces by Badalbeyi. The Sea is high calorie stuff with starry sugar-glitter and sentimentality. Shusha is a vocalise to go with those of Rachmaninov and Medtner.

This disc makes a fine companion to Naxos's other two Azerbaijani discs: Amirov's orchestral works on 8.572170 and Karayev's symphony 3 and Leyla and Mejnun on 8.579720. See if you can also track down the long-deleted two Olympias of Amirov's other orchestral music.

Rob Barnett

This disc makes an attractive companion to Naxos's other two Azerbaijani discs.