KARA KARAYEV (1918 - 1982)
Kara Karayev is a composer with a highly expressive, individual style, whose compositions are infused with the harmonies and melodic characteristics of his native Azerbaijani music. He once said: ‘Traditional music of Azerbaijan is my native language. As a composer I grew up on Azerbaijani folk melodies, and to break away from their influences, regardless of what artistic problem I am working on, I cannot, and do not want to do.’
Karayev was born in Baku, his favourite city, which he called ‘an enormous, multi-voiced symphony’. His father was a famous professor of medicine, and his mother a talented pianist with a passion for poetry. Karayev’s musical education began in Baku in 1930 and in 1938 he was accepted to study composition at the Moscow Conservatory. His long and illustrious career as a composer, pedagogue, music writer and critic began after his return to Baku in 1946 as a conservatory graduate.
Karayev studied composition with Dmitry Shostakovich, becoming one the brightest representatives of his class. Shostakovich, a sensitive, and at the same time demanding teacher, had enormous influence on the young composer both personally and professionally. Karayev’s music shows how he assimilated and adapted some aspects of his teacher’s compositional style into his own in such areas as instrumentation and harmonic language. He wrote in different genres, which included music for plays and musicals, opera, ballet, symphonic and chamber works, romances, cantatas, children’s music, and film music. Karayev adored Bach, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and Shostakovich, and was strongly drawn to Albanian, Vietnamese, Turkish, Bulgarian, Spanish, African, and Arabic music. He once said that ‘from the very beginning, East and West co-existed in me’, and his works are a testament to this happy co-existence.