Words by Simon Broughton
This is one of the best recordings of Azeri mugham I have heard in a long time. Nazaket Teymurova is clearly one of Azerbaijan’s best mugham singers – better than her position at the State Opera in Baku might imply. She has a warm, expressive voice that isn’t too showy or diva-like.
The opening to the lengthy main piece is beautiful, with short string phrases answered by a deep reedy balaban (the Azeri version of the duduk). Then there’s a call to action on the plucked tar that cues in Teymurova’s vocal introduction, alternating with other instruments in the band – balaban, tar and kamancha (spike fiddle). Over 30 minutes the song builds up to a declamatory finish at full pelt. It’s a relief after this vocal excess to have a great instrumental solo on the tar. Although it’s a beautiful instrument to look at, I often find Iranian tar a little underwhelming. But the Azeri version was ‘improved’ in the 19th century, giving it 11 strings and more frets. The playing of Aliagha Sadiyev on this disc is magnificent. For the last two vocal tracks, the ensemble is expanded with kanun (zither) and oud (lute). The final ‘Ashiqam’ is a folk song with a dance-like, celebratory mood.
This and a previous CD of Gochag Askarov are supported by the Azeri ministry of culture and are high-quality recordings of traditional music. But it’s a shame the liner notes are indigestible treatises on mugham structure, rather than translations of the poetry, which would be much more helpful.