If you like the music of Khachaturian in Gayaneh, Masquerade and Spartacus mode, then you will surely respond favourably to the output of the Azerbaijani composer Kara Karayev – he was also a “teacher, folklore authority, and artistic dynamo” – born in Baku in 1918 and who died in 1982. To complete the K connection, Kirill Karabits leads vital and sympathetic Bournemouth performances, vividly recorded.
Whether inspired by literature or – in the case of The Path of Thunder – to compose music for the ballet, Karayev writes lyrically and rhythmically and is unfailingly well-orchestrated in terms of colour and variety, and with invention that is exuberant, lilting and descriptive. Thus the music for The Seven Beauties (1949) includes a lively ‘Waltz’, a tenderly expressive ‘Adagio’ and a humorous ‘Dance of the Clowns’, the latter with a French side, Roussel coming to mind. Elsewhere in this Suite the characterisations are imaginative and delightful.
So too for Don Quixote (1960), including an uproarious ‘Marcia giocoso’ for Sancho Panza, which has Shostakovich echoes, and, the middle section to ‘Travels’ (the third movement to bear this title, track 17) is quite beautiful in its Finzi-like remembrances. ‘Cavalcade’, opening with a brilliant trumpet solo, is an edgy gallop, and ‘Don Quixote’s Death’ is intimate and poignant.
Leyla and Mejnun (1947), a fifteen-minute Symphonic Poem about ill-fated love (basically a Romeo and Juliet story and including the named pair’s feuding families), is certainly emotional and dramatic, leaving no doubt as to thwarted passions and warring households, if not as musically distinguished as the shorter movements from the first two works might have suggested, although it is the earliest music here, and the big climax suggests that Karayev knew Shostakovich’s Eighth Symphony, composed and first-performed in 1943. The disc closes with an excerpt from The Path of Thunder (1957), the ‘Lullaby’ proving to be an ethereal and affecting gem, a sort of Fauré Pavane from Azerbaijan. Everything here is recorded for the first time.