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Rob Barnett
MusicWeb International, October 2017

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.”

…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. © 2017 MusicWeb International Read complete review



Alan Becker
American Record Guide, January 2017

German born and London based pianist Kusunoki is certainly at one with the composer. © 2017 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide



David Denton
David's Review Corner, September 2016

Though born in Azerbaijan in 1931, Murad Kazhlaev’s ethnicity is Lak, one of the tribal peoples of Dagestan, the largest part of the North Caucasian autonomies. Firstly trained as pianist, then becoming a music teacher, he later concentrated on conducting and composing. Treading that difficult path dictated by the Soviet musical authorities, he managed to embrace American jazz, while at the same time meeting the demands for music as diverse as circus numbers and ballets. He later said he had enjoyed a charmed life, for he was often left in peace to compose anything he wished. The present disc covers his music for solo piano written between 1952 and 1973, and revisits the  Rachmaninov era in the Romantic Sonatina where there is also more than a whiff of Chopin, while Prokofiev is lurking in the background. The Dagestan Album contains ten pieces based on folk songs, and was aimed at the commercially popular end of the classics. They were completed in 1973, the harmonic language coming from the middle-of-the-road American pianist-composers of the 1930’s. The first three Preludes date from 1956, the remaining three from 1961, and once again returns to Rachmaninov with a hint of Satie in the central Presto. Finally nine short Picture Pieces composed over the period 1953 to 1971, each one having a title that is depicted in music. The German-born London-based pianist, Chisato Kusunoki, has worked closely with the composer prior to this 2014 recording to ensure it was to his liking. © 2016 David’s Review Corner





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