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Murad KAZHLAEV (b. 1931)
Piano Music
Romantic Sonatina (1952) [12:03]
Dagestan Album (1973) [19:34]
Six Preludes (1961) [13:37]
Picture Pieces (1971) [23:07]
Chisato Kusunoki (piano)
rec. 2014, Wyastone Leys, Monmouth
GRAND PIANO GP688 [70:21]

The Azerbaijani composer Murad Kazhlaev was born in Baku and studied there to the highest level. His composition teachers included Niyazi (Hajibeyov) (1912-84) who made Melodiya recordings of the symphonies of Gadzhibekov and Ali-Zade. Kazhlaev has been music director of the Azerbaijan Symphony Orchestra for approaching fifty years. He is of Lak/Dagestani blood. His compositions include a Symphony (1955), a full-scale national ballet Gorianka (The Highland Woman) (1968), Symphonic Dance-Pictures (1974), symphonic pictures Farhad and Shirin (1979), Morning of the Motherland: Phantasy for full symphony orchestra (1979), symphonic pictures Imam Shamil (1992), cantatas, overtures, ballads, songs and music for theatrical productions. Much involved in the worlds of popular music and jazz, he has also written scores for 42 films. The light music pieces, To See You and In An Hour were issued on a Spasibo 7", 45 RPM (SP45-004) played by the USSR Cinema Committee Orchestra and the Czechoslovak Radio Jazz Orchestra.

An ardent admirer of Ignaz Friedman and Benno Moiseiwitsch, Chisato Kusunoki was born in Germany and read music at University College, Oxford. After this she completed postgraduate studies at the Royal Academy of Music. Her teachers have included Hamish Milne, Rosalyn Tureck and Ronald Stevenson. Murad Kazhlaev’s music has been one of her avocations. She has visited the composer and given concerts of his music in Baku, at the Azerbaijan State Philharmonic Hall and in Moscow. She considers Kazhlaev "one of the greatest surviving composers of the Soviet tradition not yet widely known in the West. … His sincere, generous and humane soul are the essence of all his music … which demonstrate his passion for native Caucasus culture … He is exceptional in that he can connect with any kind of audience of any age."

As you may have gathered, Kazhlaev is no thundering iconoclast or immodest practitioner of dissonance. There is a faint thread of sweet-toned Jazz - the sort of metropolitan cool you can hear in Kapustin. For an example of this you can listen to the easy-access Preludes Nos. 5 and 6. Otherwise this music, whether softly beguiling or awash in cliff-smashing breakers, takes its lead from Rachmaninov. You'll be pushing at an open door with the nine Picture Pieces if you are already into Kapustin, Mayerl, Lionel Sainsbury, Philip Gates or William Blezard. He is as good at the warm romantic murmur as he is at eagerly impulsive excitement; the latter, for example, in the strutting Shostakovich-like Silent Film (No. 6 of the Picture Pieces) from 1971. Pastiche baroquerie of the sort popular in the 1970s is also one of his chosen provinces (As in the Old Days). The final piece, Way to the Sun, has a cragginess, majesty and mystery. It contrasts with Sunrise, the first of the Picture Pieces, which is a smoothly gentle evocation of dawn. The little Romantic Sonatina (three movements) is the earliest piece here. It is a nice example of delightful sophistication, capable and uninhibited. The folk influences are lightly evident in the Dagestan Album. Kazhlaev does not daub the folk songs and dances of these ten pieces in huge dripping graffiti. They are presented in five conjoined pairs (five tracks). Kazhlaev is as subtle as might be expected and meshes his chosen folk material into the worldly accessible style he favours.

The generously proportioned note by the ever-admirable Ates Orga is in English and German. It's a typically classy piece; I just wish he had been permitted more space to tell us about what else this composer has written. On the back of the booklet there's a very fine portrait plate showing the composer.

Rob Barnett


Romantic Sonatina (1952) [12:03]
1. I. Allegro Non Troppo
2. II. Andante Sostenuto, Rubato, Espressivo, Quasi Improvvisato
3. III. Presto Con Brio
Dagestan Album (1973) [19:34]
4. I. Adagio Maestoso, Rubato - II. Allegro Con Brio, Ritmico
5. III. Andantino - IV. Moderato, Ritmico
6. V. Andante Cantabile, Rubato - VI. Allegretto
7. VII. Andante Cantabile - VIII. Andantino Cantabile, Rubato
8. IX. Allegro, Ritmico - X. Andante Espressivo
Six Preludes (1961) [13:37]
9. I. Adagio Cantabile
10. II. Andante Cantabile
11. III. Presto
12. IV. Creation. Andante Cantabile
13. V. Cry. Andante Espressivo, Con Moto
14. VI. Protest. Presto
Picture Pieces (1971) [23:07]
15. Sunrise
16. Welcome Overture
17. Favourite Melody
18. Students' Waltz
19. Young Girls
20. Silent Film
21. Sad Farewell
22. As in the Old Days
23. Way to the Sun



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