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CD Review: The Art of Yuri Kazakov
Yuri Kazakov, bayan
with the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra
Conducted by Veronika Dudarova

Total Time: 69:29
Label: Russian Disc (00734)
Released: 2004
Review Date: February 2005

Order from:

  • 1. Russian Song "Hey, you, my birchtree"
  • 2. Waltz "Birchtree"
  • 3. Northern folksongs
  • 4. Variations on two northern folksongs
  • 5. Fantasy on Seamen's Songs
  • 6. Waltz by Griboyedev
  • 7. Kubanka polka
  • 8. In a Mountain Village
  • 9. Licurice, Moldavian dance
  • 10. Quadrille by Strauss
  • 11. Idyll by Melartin
  • 12. Le Coucou by D´Aquin
  • 13 Etude no 25 by Chopin
  • 14-16 Concerto for Accordion & Orchestra (Tchaikin)
  • Review by: Henry Doktorski

    It has been six years since I wrote a review of Yuri Kazakov's first CD (see Stars of Russian Bayan) and at that time I praised his performance of the finale of Nikolai Tchaikin's Concerto for Bayan and Orchestra. My only disappointment was the omission of the first two movements from the disc. Tchaikin's concerto is an important work in the repertoire, and deserves to be heard in its entirety. Now, after a long wait, my cherished desire has been fullfilled!

    Yuri Kazakov, born in 1924 in the northern Russian city of Archangel, was one of the pioneer classical bayanists of the Soviet Union. Although he often performed the traditional Russian folk repertoire, he was one of the first to perform classical transcriptions in their original forms using the free-bass left-hand system. On this disc we hear many of his early solo recordings of traditional Russian folk songs: waltzes, polkas, and marches, many arranged for the bayan by himself. Also included are a few transcriptions by classical composers Strauss (Quadrille), D´Aquin (the Cuckoo), Chopin (Etude in C#m), and the Russian composer M. Ippolitov-Ivanov (In a Mountain Village), in addition to the Tchaikin concerto.

    This disc features exclusively music in the Romantic style and represents that period of bayan (and accordion) playing most commonly associated with the first half of the twentieth-century. The folk-based pieces are easy-listening pieces; some are novelties and seem to exist soley for light entertainment. Others are more serious, such as Ippolitov-Ivanov's In a Mountain Village, a movement from his suite "Caucasus Sketches, which begins with a melancholy and dramatic introduction with a solo reed-voice before jumping into a lively waltz. This piece is also noteworthy because it features an echo effect which I presume to be the result of Kazakov's invention: "The multi-timbred bayan." Exactly what this is is not explained in the liner notes, but it sounds like some kind of a mute.

    I believe the tracks on this disc are remastered vinyl recordings from Kazakov's personal archives. The sound quality is excellent. I heard no scratches or hisses. The CD liner notes, written in Russian and English, besides giving a nice biography of Kazakov, also describe some of his more recent honors, such as his induction by the Russian Federation president into the Order of Merit in the Service to the Fatherland, 4th Degree, in 2001, and the dedication in 2002 of his statue (along with other great accordionists) in an outdoor sculpture/monument in the accordion capital of the world: Castelfidardo, Italy.

    I am glad that Kazakov is getting some of the recognition he deserves.

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