Born in 1918, Russian Kara Karayev lived until 1982 as one of the more notable pupils of Shostakovich. He had a love of folk melodies, especially from his native Azerbaijan, and also used melodies from other parts of the world as he saw fit. The present disc looks to explore this little known composers' wide range of influences and musical gifts. As heard here, they were considerable.
These ballet suites are engaging and easy on the ear. There are moments of clear folk influence – not to mention echoes of his great teacher – but there is also a sense of great musical instinct. There's much beauty here, and we find less of the darkness that seemed to permeate his teacher's works. By and large, it's light music, but very good music. My colleague Robert Cummings had similar praise.
Mr. Cummings is also correct in noting that The Path of Thunder is a little darker and deeper, both musically and emotionally. Since the subject matter is forbidden love in apartheid-era South Africa, a little more grimness can be forgiven. Again though, the music remains lively and alert, with nods to everyone from the African communities to Prokofiev, as the score was dedicated in the memory of the latter.
The Royal Philharmonic is in great form, and plays with heart and enthusiasm. Dmitry Yablonsky clearly loves this music, and Naxos gives wonderful sound to back up the project. Anyone who loves ballet music will surely enjoy this. A winner.
Copyright © 2014, Brian Wigman