Kirill Karabits conducts orchestral work by Karayev

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Karayev
LABELS: Chandos
ALBUM TITLE: Karayev
WORKS: The Seven Beauties; Don Quixote; Leyla and Mejnun; The Path of Thunder – Lullaby
PERFORMER: Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Kirill Karabits
CATALOGUE NO: CHSA 5203 (hybrid CD-SACD)

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Who needs the music of Kara Karayev? Azerbaijan, perhaps, may be proud to have a national figure, however tainted by Soviet association (he died in 1982). But quite why conductor Kirill Karabits felt the need to unearth the undistinguished music on this recording slightly  baffles me.

If only I could welcome these performances in fine sound, having sat through the ballet suites in Melodiya recordings of the 1990s. The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra is its shining, sophisticated self, and there are plenty of opportunities for oboe, clarinet and horn solos. But nothing stands out. The Seven Beauties promises the Khachaturian touch, but retreats into insipidity (and there’s a rip-off of Gayaneh’s block-chord wind writing in the final Procession). I hope not to endure the whole ballet – whereas I would happily see Kozintsev’s film of Don Quixote again. The music, though, is incidental and only comes to life in the Pavan and Cavalcade. The symphonic poem Leyla and Mejnun, taking its subject matter, like The Seven Beauties, from a poem by the 12th-century poet Nizami, is a pale shadow of Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet, its warring families depicted by a similar fight-rhythm; the crisis is an outrageous near-plagiarism of the first-movement climax in Shostakovich’s Eighth Symphony. Nevertheless, these are fine performances. 

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David Nice