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KAZHLAEV, Murad (b. 1931)



  • Chisato Kusunoki, piano

This recording charts a two-decade period in the musical life of the eminent Azerbaijani composer, teacher and conductor, Murad Kazhlaev. He has always written with idiomatic flair for his own instrument, the piano, from the early Romantic Sonatina to the beautiful, vocalised folk themes that make up the Dagestan Album. His nonchalant wit can be savoured in Picture Pieces whilst expressive beauty permeates the Six Preludes.


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Romantic Sonatina (1952) (00:12:03 )
I. Allegro non troppo (00:05:46)
II. Andante sostenuto, rubato, espressivo, quasi improvvisato (00:04:39)
III. Presto con brio (00:03:14)
Dagestan Album (1973) (00:19:34 )
On Themes of Avarian and Lak Songs: No. 1. Adagio maestoso, rubato - No. 2. Allegro con brio, ritmico (00:03:42)
On Themes of Lak Songs: No. 3. Andantino - No. 4. Moderato, ritmico (00:04:46)
On Themes of Dargin Songs: No. 5. Andante cantabile, rubato - No. 6. Allegretto (00:03:20)
On Themes of Lezgin Songs: No. 7. Andante cantabile - No. 8. Andantino cantabile, rubato (00:03:59)
On Themes of Kumyk Songs: No. 9. Allegro, ritmico - No. 10. Andante espressivo (00:03:49)
6 Preludes (1961) (00:13:37 )
No. 1. Adagio cantabile (00:03:23)
No. 2. Andante cantabile (00:01:21)
No. 3. Presto (00:00:52)
No. 4. Creation: Andante cantabile (00:02:45)
No. 5. Cry: Andante espressivo, con moto (00:03:30)
No. 6. Protest: Presto (00:01:50)
Picture Pieces (1971) (00:23:07 )
No. 1. Sunrise * (00:02:55)
No. 2. Welcome Overture * (00:02:58)
No. 3. Favourite Melody * (00:02:24)
No. 4. Students' Waltz * (00:02:00)
No. 5. Young Girls * (00:02:38)
No. 6. Silent Film * (00:02:44)
No. 7. Sad Farewell * (00:02:31)
No. 8. As in the Old Days * (00:01:58)
No. 9. Way to the Sun * (00:03:07)
* World Première Recording
Total Time: 01:10:11

The Artist

Chisato Kusunoki’s style of playing reflects her interest and study of pianists such as Ignaz Friedman and Benno Moiseiwitsch. Born in Germany, she read music at University College, Oxford, where she graduated with the prestigious Gibbs Prize in performance. Thereafter she completed her postgraduate performance diploma with a distinction at the Royal Academy of Music. She studied with Nicholas Austin and Hamish Milne and has also worked with Dmitri Bashkirov, Alexander Satz, Rosalyn Tureck and Ronald Stevenson. Chisato Kusunoki performs regularly in many of the world’s finest venues and concert series, both in recital and with orchestra including Sumida Triphony Hall, Victoria Concert Hall and Wigmore Hall. She has also toured extensively in Germany, Russia, Ukraine, the Caucasus and the Far East. She has made a particular study of Medtner and Kazhlaev’s music, and was invited by Murad Kazhlaev to his birth place Baku, where she gave a concert at the Azerbaijan State Philharmonic Hall. She then travelled with him and his wife to their family homeland, Makhachkala. Whilst there she played at the Makhachkala Murad Kazhlaev School of Music for Talented Children (founded by the composer) and at the Makhachkala Philharmonic Hall. Chisato Kusunoki has given further concerts of Kazhlaev’s music in Moscow and their friendship continues to this day.

The Composer

Murad Magomedovich Kazhlaev was born in Baku, Azerbaijan, in January 1931, the son of an ENT specialist. He studied at the Azerbaijan State Conservatory, initially in the junior school (1938–49) and then in the senior faculty (1950–55), graduating from the composition class of Boris Zeidman (1908–81), a Leningrad student of Maximilian Steinberg (Rimsky-Korsakov’s son-in-law), the teacher of Shostakovich and Shaporin. He worked additionally with the Dagestani pioneer Gotfrid Hasanov and pursued conducting under Niyazi (Zulfigar oğlu Tagizade Hajibeyov, 1912–84), for nearly fifty years the iconic music director of the Azerbaijan State Symphony Orchestra. Kazhlaev’s ethnicity is Lak, one of the tribal peoples of Dagestan.

A skilled pianist (he knew Richter, a patient of his father’s, frequently driving him around old Baku), Kazhlaev settled in Makhachkala, Dagestan’s fortress capital, in 1955. Here he taught theory, cofounded the Dagestan Composers’ Union (having been elected to the USSR Composers’ Union in 1954, while still a student), and directed the Dagestan Radio Symphony Orchestra (1957–63). Recipient of the Glinka State Prize (1970) and People’s Artist of the USSR (1981), he moved to Moscow in January 1989, taking up an eighteen-year appointment as artistic director and conductor of the prestigious Academic Grand Concert Orchestra of State Radio and Television (latterly the Yuri Silantyev Academic Grand Concert Orchestra), Russia’s flagship popular music, big band, variety and and jazz outfit but with a programming policy embracing also classicoromantic repertory and contemporary premieres. In 1993 he was appointed professor of composition at the State Rachmaninov Conservatoire, Rostov-on-Don. In January 2016, on the occasion of his 85th birthday, he was created an Honoured Artist of Dagestan.

Kazhlaev’s catalogue ranges from nationalist orchestral works to circus numbers, ballet to operetta, musical to revue commissions to songs and romances—all overtly harmonic, tuneful and vibrantly imagined. His jazz, big band, light music and film output, getting on for two hundred scores, affirms the studio professional working against the clock. Teeming with pigment, atmosphere and show-stopping numbers, the spectacularly orchestrated 1968 Dagestani ballet Gorynka (The Mountain Girl), produced at the Kirov (Mariinsky Theatre) with Barïshnikov, compares more than favourably with Khachaturian’s wartime Gayane: a veritable banquet of lyric chorus and percussive attack, nasal reeds and Caucasian trumpet, with shards of Rachmaninov and Sacre adding black powder to the cocktail.


“German born and London based pianist Kusunoki is certainly at one with the composer.” – American Record Guide

“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.” – David Denton