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David Hurwitz, May 2015

…the performances show the music in a very positive light. …this is fun. © 2015 Read complete review

Raymond Tuttle
Fanfare, March 2012

…it is a crazy quilt, but it is a lot of fun. In addition to [the] very tasty…main courses, Naxos gives us not one, not two, but three desserts.

A really first-class orchestra helps to put these scores across, and conductor Dmitry Yablonsky…is a sympathetic and energetic leader. The pianists, both of them native Azerbaijanis, are very much up to their respective tasks, playing with sparkle and with an obvious affinity for the folk idioms. In Shusha , soprano Joan Rodgers is most soulful. Excellent engineering is another point in this disc’s favor.

This might not be the most important CD I’ve reviewed in 2011, but it is one of the most enjoyable, even adorable. As such, it is highly recommended! © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review on Fanfare

MusicWeb International, January 2012

Amirov’s populist Concerto is good, Adigezalov’s Fourth is profound and spectacular…Guliyev’s Gaytagi is a lot of fun…[Badalbeyli] piano technique is very impressive…Naxos must now tempt Adigezalzade—or Badalbeyli—to record the other three, and also ask Yablonsky and the RPO to get on with Adigezalov’s four symphonies…sound and general technical quality is excellent. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Bob McQuiston
Classical Lost and Found, December 2011

Best Find for 2011

Mr. Badalbeyli is...our soloist for the Amirov/Nazirova and Guliyev selections, as well as his own The Sea, giving us technically accomplished, heartfelt performances of these rarities. The same can be said for pianist Murad Adigezalzade and soprano Joan Rodgers in the other two works. The support provided by Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) under Dmitry Yablonsky is committed and enthusiastic, ensuring a memorable listening experience when you spin this disc. © 2011 Classical Lost and Found Read complete review

Steve Arloff
MusicWeb International, December 2011

The first concerto on the disc is the result of a collaboration between the composer Fikret Amirov and the pianist Elmira Nazirova…a lively and colourful statement…followed by a more sombre mood in the second where there is plenty of drama, only for that mood to be dispelled in the final movement where the themes from the beginning of the concerto are restated in a conversation between piano and orchestra leading to a pulsating, energetic and exciting climax.

…composer Tofig Guliyev adds American jazz and this is very evident in his piece Gaytagi – dance for piano and orchestra…This exuberant piece explodes from the very beginning…and would make a superb encore piece with which to respond to an audience’s applause and it would be sure to delight them into answering with more and even louder clapping. It is great fun and even involves a resounding Hey! from the players seconds before the final notes.

The penultimate work on this fascinating disc is written and played by composer/pianist Farhad Badalbeyli, the pianist on all the other piano works apart from Adigezalov’s concerto. His work The Sea for piano and orchestra is even more reminiscent of the Warsaw Concerto with its lush and romantic scoring, full of sumptuous sounds that truly evoke the sea in its most majestic and attractive mood. The tumbling notes perfectly describe the sunlit lapping waves, with harp joining in to help describe it petering out suddenly at its close. The last work on the record is a piece of vocalise, also by Badalbeyli but without his pianistic input. It is entitled Shusha…sung by Joan Rodgers whose crystal clear soprano voice is absolutely perfect for this style of singing in which the voice becomes a true instrument soaring above the orchestra in a wonderfully evocative way and making the piece a powerful statement of regret felt by Azerbaijanis over their loss of a centre of their culture.

The playing by both pianists on the disc is faultless and the orchestra’s contribution shows that it has got inside the sound world as if “to the manner born”. This disc is a brilliant introduction to the classical music of Azerbaijan and anyone interested in exploring this little known corner of our musical world should hear it and they will find some romantic treasures that reward repeated listening and at the famously keen Naxos price represents no risk at all. I loved it. © 2011 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Rob Barnett
MusicWeb International, November 2011

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

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. Read complete review, November 2011

This is a delightful CD of piano and orchestra exotica, beautifully recorded, expertly performed. Thanks, Naxos, once again. Read complete review

James Manheim, November 2011

The Naxos label has made a good move in devoting several series of CDs to contemporary national schools, presenting compositions largely unknown outside their home countries. Enjoyable for anyone and well recorded in London’s Cadogan Hall with the Royal Philharmonic under the indefatigable Dmitry Yablonsky, this release stimulates curiosity about the other releases in Naxos’ Azerbaijani series. Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, October 2011

In March of last year I welcomed a disc of works by the Azerbaijani composer, Fikret Amirov, and now we have more from a country of whose music we know little. In that review I suggested you read the excellent booklet notes after listening to the music, so that you do not prejudge works that are closely linked with such composers as Rimsky-Korsakov and Khachaturian. Tonal, uncomplicated, and without a trace of European modernism stemming from the Second Viennese school, Amirov’s Concerto for piano and orchestra after Arabian Themes is a score offering the soloist plenty of scope for virtuosity. Maybe the opening of Vasif Adigezalov’s Fourth Piano Concerto is also folk inspired, but to Western ears the opening movement is lightweight and jazzy; the second could have come from a romantic Hollywood film, and it is in that world of music we continue through Togif Guliyev’s dance for piano and orchestra, Gaytagi, and Farhad Badalbeyli’s The Sea. Back to a more sombre mood for a picture of the ancient city of Shusha, the artistic hub of Azerbaijani composers. With two outstanding pianists. Murad Adigezalzade and Farhad Badalbeyli assuring authenticity of performance, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra liberally bring a backdrop of primary colours under the direction of Dmitry Yablonsky. The British soprano, Joan Rodgers, makes a brief appearance in the haunting sounds of Shusha. This is music to sit back and enjoy, free of angst and unlimited in its vivacity. Naxos’s UK recording team add excellent sound.

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