New Classical Tracks

New Classical Tracks - From Azerbaijan, a Recommendation

by Valerie Kahler, Minnesota Public Radio
September 13, 2011

St. Paul, Minn. — "Also Recommended." Netflix does it. Pandora. Amazon. "If you liked X, try Y!" And you know what? It works. Not always, but often enough that I've seen films and discovered music that I might have otherwise missed.

With that in mind, allow me to recommend to you Kara Karayev. If you like Rimsky-Korsakov, try Karayev! A new release from the Moscow Radio and TV Orchestra features two ballet suites by Karayev.

He was a 20th-century Azerbaijani composer who steeped himself in the folk culture of his native land: art, songs, stories and dances.

While his music sounds completely familiar - old-fashioned, melodic and lush - it's infused with vivid colors and exotic rhythms.

The stories are exotic as well. Most of the fairytales I grew up with painted the characters in broad strokes. Everything was black and white: Princess = Good, Prince = Heroic, Stepmother = Bad, King = Clueless and/or Dead.

In Karayev's telling of "The Seven Beauties," we're never quite sure if the King is a good guy. First, you learn that his government is hopelessly corrupt. King = Bad. But then, he wins a wrestling match with the heroine's brother and is totally gracious about it, even giving the brother a golden prize. King = Kinda Cool. Then he goes off to war, leaving his shady Vizier in charge. King = Brave...and Foolish.

The Vizier is truly corrupt. He plans to kill the King...the King learns of the plot from the brother...the Vizier frames the brother for the crime. King = Deceived.

There's more to the story, but all the while the music carries us along: the sultry dances in the temple, the bustle of the market, the trumpets of war...and the storms of destruction.

Led by Rauf Abdullayev, the Moscow Radio and TV Symphony Orchestra strides so confidently and familiarly through this music, it feels like hearing a seasoned storyteller spinning a favorite tale. Karayev weaves a musical narrative so vivid and detailed and engrossing that you almost don't need to know the story to smell the spices, feel the sand and silk, and see the despair and sadness of a king who has put his faith in the wrong men.

I was instantly drawn into this music and its stories. I hope you are too.

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