Fikrat Amirov might be a name that some will recall. He had a number of pieces championed by Stokowski - various mugams or folk rhapsodies. He was drawn to the grandiloquently exotic. Once again these two Amirov pieces are intensely coloured and moody. Amirov's name is likely also to be familiar because a clutch of his orchestral works ended up on two Olympias: Arabian Nights (complete ballet) OCD 578 A&B; Azerbaijan Capriccio for orchestra OCD 490; Gulistan Bayaty Shiraz (symphonic mugam) OCD 490; Kurd Afshari (symphonic mugam) OCD 490; Shur (symphonic mugam) OCD 578 A/B; Symphony for String Orchestra OCD 578 A/B; Tale of Nasimi for orchestra OCD 490. The second Amirov piece, Kurd-Afshari, is a symphonic mugam - a vivid and free orchestral rhapsody around themes of folk character.
Ballet is represented by sixteen tracks divided seven to Garayev and nine to Amirov. Garayev's Seven Beauties (1952) based on the work of Nizami (as was his orchestral piece Leyli and Majnun). The Waltz has some of the nervy hysteria of Prokofiev and the stalking Procession march also smacks of that composer. However the starry Delian Adagio with its Soviet style solo horn is the prize here. The Most beautiful of all beauties sings in the shade rather like Griffes' Pleasure Dome but Garayev's textures are clarified and sing like Borodin and Khachaturian.
Six years later and Garayev probed at a deeper emotional level although still within a language broadly recognisable as having been set by Prokofiev (rather than Shostakovich). Here he takes the book Path of Thunder by Peter Abraham and courageously bends it into shape as a ballet. The plot relates to the liberation movement in Apartheid South Africa. The dance rhythms are as alive as those that skip through the Caribbean-set opera Our Man in Havana by the late Malcolm Williamson and through the superb Alan Bush opera The Sugar Reapers (or Guyana Johnny) - another exploration of revolution against oppression. This is masterful music - highly poetic (try tr.14 - Dance of the Girls with Guitars - with vibraphone), scorched in places but not at all bombastic. There is no feeling of an apparatchik going through the motions although he veers close once or twice in the overweening victor's confidence of the finale.
Amirov was born in the city of Ganja where his father was a Tar player and singer. He studied at Baku's conservatory. He has written prolifically. Amongst a host of orchestral works there are also various musical comedies including Urakachanlar (Heart Stealers) of 1944 and Gouzun Aydin (1946). Just as with Garayev, Amirov avoids the sway of Shostakovich and instead revels in Azerbaijani and Middle East melodic material and treatments. Ceremonial dance and dervish rounds are presented without exotic instruments such as the Tar. The struggle of Nasimi is brilliantly painted with screaming Tchaikovskian strings and thudding percussion. Two years after Nasimi came the opera-ballet Arabian Nights. This is also known as One Thousand and One Nights. It was written with the librettist Nelya Nazirova and the brothers Maksud and Rustam Ibrahimbeyov. This too is much in keeping with the scorching oriental style of Nasimi without being unduly 'ethnic'. The drum-punctuated and blaring 'Orgy' recalls Khachaturian's motoric balle