The Free-Reed Review

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CD Review: Yuri Kazakov
Stars of Russian Bayan
Yuri Kazakov, bayan
A. Sharoev and V. Malinin, violins
T. Rozhkova and I. Babenko, harps
A. Korneyev and I. Pikoinet, flutes
Moscow Symphony Orchestra, V. Dudarova, conductor


Variations on Ukrainian Folk Song: "Cossack Was Riding"
Between Steep Banks
Russian Village
Broken Life (Waltz)
Northern Tunes
Flemish Folk Dance
Humoresque (R. Shchedrin)
Variations on Russian Folk Song: "Akh You, Birch"
Forest Fairy-Tale (V. Becker)
Humoresque, Op. 10, No. 2 (Tchaikovsky)
The Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks (M. Mussorgsky)
Music Box (A. Liadov)
Finale from "Concerto No. 1 for Bayan and Orchestra" (N. Tchaikin)
Trio Sonata for 2 Violins & Cembala in C Major (J.S. Bach)
Ave Maria (F. Schubert - A. Wilhelmy)
Presto from "Sonata No. 5 in G Major, Op. 8" (J. Haydn)
Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (J.S. Bach)

total time: 68:39
released: 1997
review date: December 1999

label: Russian Disc
Order from: Håkan Widar:

Review by Henry Doktorski

In May 1996, I had the pleasure of performing with one of the premier virtuosi of the twentieth century, the Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich. (See The Symphonic Squeezebox.) After our rehearsal the great cellist asked me, "Have you heard of Yuri Kazakov?" I replied, "Certainly! The famous Russian bayanist." Mr. Rostropovich then proceeded to tell me a story which took place nearly five decades ago (ca. 1951) in Siberia about a concert tour he had with Mr. Kazakov and a Russian soprano. They did not travel to the great Russian metropolitan areas like Moscow and Kiev, but instead traveled through the hinterlands of Siberia. They performed for small towns and villages; sometimes in auditoriums and theaters and sometimes in barns! Many of the audience members had never seen a concert before.

Rostropovich spoke very highly of Kazakov's playing, "His bayan is very special -- it sounded like an organ and had many different stops."

Yuri Kazakov, born in the northern seaport of Archangel in 1924, has been one of the pioneers of the legitimization of the bayan as a classical concert instrument. At the age of 18 he joined the Soviet Navy and before long was a leading member of a musical ensemble aboard his ship in the North Fleet. During World War II he gave many concerts for the troops and seamen, often as not under fire, and it was in these difficult years that his musical career began. His first rewards for his creative work were the Order of the Red Star and a number of medals for distinguished service at the front. The bayanist gave six hundred concerts, some of which were solo recitals, at the front. Some days he would give up to eight performances and at night he would work on new programs.

After the war, Kazakov studied with the renowned teacher and composer Dr. Nikolai Tchaikin at the Gnessin Pedagogical Institute in Moscow. In 1951 Kazakov redesigned the Russian "free bass" bayan, enabling him to play the classics of world music in their original form. Now the works of Mozart, Chopin, Moussorgsky, Liszt, and J.S. Bach could be added to his repertoire.

In 1952 he toured the U.S.S.R. as soloist with the Archangelsk Philharmonic. He was first to perform the famous Concerto for Bayan and Symphony Orchestra dedicated to him by its composer, Dr. Tchaikin. In 1955, he entered an International Competition for Folk Instruments in Warsaw and was awarded a gold medal and the title of International Competition Laureate. His historic recital at the Moscow Conservatory in 1957 firmly established the bayan as a classical instrument and innovated a new type of recital - that of the solo recital for the bayan.

Kazakov is also a composer with a bent for folkloristic music and he has endeavored to acquaint listeners with the delightful melodies of the Russian North. He has performed in over two dozen countries, and in 1963 was awarded the title of Honored Artist of the Soviet Union.

This CD features a pleasing and balanced program of previously released recordings from vinyl. The sound quality is excellent; a credit to the remastering engineers. The program includes sophisticated arrangements of folk music, transcriptions of classical repertoire and original works for the bayan. Tracks one through 12 are for solo bayan, with beautiful and brilliant playing of mostly folk-based music. Then in track 13, the excitement mounts as the Moscow Symphony Orchestra begins the opening crashing chords of the finale of Tchaikin's Concerto for Bayan and Orchestra. How I wished Russian Disc would have included the other two movements! I was terribly disappointed, but I hope they will release the entire concerto soon.

Tracks 14 through 16 feature the bayan in combination with other instruments. The bayan was used as a continuo while the duo violins played the two upper voices in Bach's Trio Sonata. I personally thought that this fifteen-minute piece needed something additional to generate more interest; perhaps a cello or bassoon doubling the bass line. As it was, the bayan didn't seem to provide enough depth or "oomph" for my taste.

I found Haydn's Presto more interesting, but it provided only a taste of the composer's original intent, as the other movements of the work were omitted. Despite the exclusion of movements from the Tchaikin concerto and the Haydn sonata, this CD nevertheless provides a wonderful glimpse into the artistic legacy of one of the legends of the Russian bayan, Yuri Kazakov. The concluding track, Bach's great organ work, Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, was played masterfully. In my opinion this CD deserves to be in every classical free-reed lover's audio library.

CD booklet notes are written in Russian.

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