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10-May-2019

Yury Kazakov (1924-2019), Moscow – Russia

Yuri Kasakov PosterYury Kazakov was very much a musical innovator. It was he who developed the bayan from a folk music instrument to a solo classical concert instrument, pioneering the use of free bass in the process. He was the first accordionist to perform solo on radio and TV in the USSR, and he was the first to give a solo recital at the Moscow Conservatory in 1957, thus winning recognition for the accordion as an acknowledged concert instrument.

Born into a family of musicians in Archangel in 1924, Kazakov was introduced to the piano and to the accordion at an early age. His first public concerts in the 1930s were played on the piano, but after a few years he preferred using the bayan. In 1942 he joined the Soviet Navy and before long was a leading member of a musical ensemble aboard his ship in the North Fleet, performing an estimated 600 concerts. During the war years he was often heard by American and British seamen who had made the long supply run to Archangel and other ports in Northern Russia.

After World War Two ended in 1945 Kazakov studied at the ‘Gnessin’ Institute in Moscow, worked with the Philharmonic Society of Archangel, and made extensive tours of the U.S.S.R. playing varied programmes (which included Chaikin's ‘Concerto for Accordion and Orchestra’).

Yuri Kazakov’s technique and artistry was recognised by his contemporaries and audiences throughout his long and productive career both as a performer and also as a composer, and he recorded numerous albums and a DVD. His biography was published in 2006. He toured thirty countries to much critical acclaim, including England, France, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Japan, Canada, Poland, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cuba, Chile, Mexico, etc.

Recalling a joint visit to England in 1954, the composer and conductor Aram Khachaturian wrote the following: “Unexpectedly the bayan proved to be a tremendous success. In Kazakov’s hands it sang and rumbled, like an organ, filling the great hall with powerful sounds. The remarkabIe talent of the musician and his repertory, which is unusual for a bayanist, immediately made Kazakov a very popular man in the British Isles. I, too, felt that Kazakov induced me to change my attitude to the bayan. Remaining a favourite folk instrument, the bayan is asserting itself on the peak of musical Olympus. The bayan has reached maturity and taken the place it deserves in "big music" and this should be put down to the credit of Yuri Kazakov and other likeminded musicians".

In 1983 Kazakov and Pearl Fawcett-Adriano made a successful short concert tour of England, arranged by Adrian Dante, and the following year a joint CD was issued.

Yury Kazakov passed away on May 6th 2019 at the age of 94. He was predeceased by his wife Marina, and his funeral took place on May 8th at the Church of the Nativity of John the Baptist in Moscow.
Yury Kazakov
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