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Kara Karayev is probably the best-known of all Azerbaijani composers. Following on from his Third Symphony (8.570720), this double-bill ballet disc presents two of his best-known works in the genre. His music will appeal to admirers of his teacher Shostakovich, and also to Prokofiev lovers – there are March elements here reminiscent of Prokofiev.

Naxos 8.573122
KARAYEV, K.: Seven Beauties Ballet Suite / The Path of Thunder (Azerbaijani Composers, Vol. 4)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Dmitry Yablonsky

Born in Baku, Kara Karayev was one of Dmitry Shostakovich’s most distinguished pupils. Karayev absorbed his teacher’s influence, binding it to his own distinctive use of native Azerbaijani folk melodies and harmonies to produce music in an eclectic range of genres. The Seven Beauties is the first full-length Azerbaijani ballet, and the suite heard here brims with an exotic array of appealing rhythms and melodies. The Path of Thunder uses elements of African and Afro-American music in its exploration of the theme of forbidden love in apartheid-era South Africa.

Listen to an excerpt from The Maghrebian Beauty

About the Artists

Dmitry Yablonsky has made more than seventy recordings, many of them prize-winning, as conductor and cellist. In 2009 he became an academician of the Independent Academy of Aesthetics and Liberal Arts in Moscow, and also professor of cello at the Baku Academy of Music.

Formed in 1946 by Sir Thomas Beecham, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) has enjoyed more than 65 years of success, giving first-class performances of a wide range of musical repertoire all over the world with artists of the highest calibre.

The Azerbaijani Composers Series

Naxos 8.572666
AZERBAIJANI PIANO CONCERTOS (Azerbaijani Composers, Vol. 3)
Badalbeyli, Adigezalzade, Royal Philharmonic, Yablonsky

All of the composers here combine elements of ancient Azerbaijani tradition with Western forms, colorful orchestration and vivid musical storytelling. This is epitomized in Vasif Adigezalov’s symphonically proportioned Fourth Piano Concerto, while Amirov and Nazirova add a touch of Arabian exoticism into their Concerto. The bubbling energy of Tofig Guliyev’s ‘Gaytagi dance adds a splash of jazz, and Farhad Badalbeyli’s works depict The Sea in an expansive and atmospheric score, followed by the sad tale of the city of Shusha expressed in a vocalise.

Naxos 8.572170
AMIROV, F.: Shur / Kyurdi Ovshari / Gyulistan Bayati Shiraz / Azerbaijan Capriccio (Azerbaijani Composers, Vol. 2)
Russian Philharmonic, Yablonsky

A prolific composer in many genres, including operas, musical comedies, songs, orchestral works and stage and film music, Fikret Amirov came to prominent public attention at the age of 26, when his two symphonic mugamsShur and Kyurdi Ovshari, were first performed in Baku in August 1948 to popular acclaim. Based on the Azerbaijani mugam, a highly improvisatory form of folk-music which alternates song and dance-like episodes, Shur and Kyurdi Ovshari, together with Amirov’s third symphonic mugam from 1971, Gyulistan Bayati Shiraz, sparkle with brilliant orchestration, rich melodic invention and expressive instrumental solos. The Azerbaijan Capriccio, a thrilling example of orchestral pyrotechnics, also has its roots in folk-music.

Naxos 8.570720
KARAYEV, K: Symphony No. 3 / Leyli and Medjnun / Don Quixote (Azerbaijani Composers, Vol. 1)
Russian Philharmonic, Yablonsky


A pupil of Shostakovich, Kara Karayev had a highly expressive, individual style infused with the harmonies and melodic characteristics of the music of his native Azerbaijan. Karayev’s 1964 Third Symphony combines elements of traditional Azerbaijani music, such as the five-hundred-year-old ashug melody, with contemporary compositional techniques. Leyla and Mejnun, one of Karayev’s most popular works, was inspired by the great twelfth-century Azerbaijani poet, Nizami, while Don Quixote is based on musical material for a film score. This is the first time that these works have appeared on compact disc.

More Releases Featuring Azerbaijani Composers or Artists

Naxos 8.573058
GODOWSKY, L.: Violin and Piano Music - 12 Impressions / Avowal / Waltz Poems
Rashidova, Chadwick

Leopold Godowsky was one of the greatest piano virtuosos of his time, many of whose compositions for the piano have long since taken their place in the repertoire. However, his violin music is almost unknown. Avowal is a charming transcription of his piano work Poem No 2. The Twelve Impressions were dedicated to Fritz Kreisler and his wife, and are largely derived from Godowsky’s original piano pieces but refashioned to allow for Kreisler’s fingerings and bowing. The Azerbaijani-born Nazrin Rashidova is a soloist, recitalist, chamber musician and orchestral director, whose musical acumen is ensuring a unique place for her in the music world.

Naxos 8.573179

Rovshan Mamedkuliev was first prize-winner at the prestigious Guitar Foundation of America Competition in 2012, and now stands as one of the world’s most exciting young instrumentalists. He has constructed a programme with several themes. Iberian music is represented by Falla, Albéniz and Turina, and by two of the titans of guitar playing, Miguel Llobet and Francisco Tárrega. He also includes music by his Azerbaijani compatriot, Fikret Amirov, whose folkloric-influenced music is another thematic link. The kaleidoscopic Just How Funky Are You by Andrew York and Leo Brouwer’s An Idea explore the guitar’s contemporary vitality.

Naxos 8.570324
CAUCASIAN IMPRESSIONS – Works for String Orchestra
Caucasian Chamber Orchestra, Berkemer

This collection of music from the Caucasus features Georgian, Armenian and Azerbaijani composers whose works have long deserved a wider hearing. In common with other composers trained in regions of the former USSR, they draw largely on folk material as their inspiration.

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