In 1937, Karayev joined the Union of Composers of Azerbaijan SSR. In 1938, at the age of twenty, Karayev composed his first musical piece, a cantata "The Song of the Heart" to the poem by Rasul Rza. Karayev conducted his cantata during its premiere the "Decade of Azerbaijani Art" festival in the Bolshoi Theater, an event also attended by Joseph Stalin. In the same year, he moved to Moscow State Conservatoire, where he became a student and a good friend of Dmitri Shostakovich. In 1945, Karayev and Jovdat Hajiyev wrote the "Motherland" opera, for which they were awarded a prestigious Stalin prize. In 1948, at the age of 30, Karayev was again awarded this prize for his symphonic poem "Leyli and Majnun", based on the same-titled famous work of Nizami. In 1952, under the direction of the choreograph P.
A. Gusev, Karayev's "Seven Beauties" ballet was staged at the Azerbaijani Theater of Opera and Ballet. Based based on Nizami's famous poem, "Seven Beauties" became the first Azerbaijani ballet and opened a new chapter in the history of classical music of Azerbaijan. Karayev's only other ballet, "Path of Thunder", staged in 1958, was dedicated to racial conflicts in South Africa.
His ballets remain his most well known and critically acclaimed work. Upon the death of Uzeyir Hajibeyov in 1948, Karayev became the Chair of the Union of Composers of Azerbaijan SSR and the rector of Azerbaijan State Conservatoire. In the latter position, Karayev retained Hajibeyov's traditional emphasis on Azerbaijani folk music in teaching, and also promoted the contemporary genres, such as jazz, in Azerbaijani music. Karayev suffered from heart disease, which prevented him from attending his own 60th jubilee celebration held in Moscow, where he was awarded the title of the Hero of Socialist Labour, a highest recognition award of the Soviet government. Karayev spent the last 5 years of his life in Moscow, away from public, although his love for Baku remained strong and was reflected in his writing. Karayev died on May 13, 1982 in Moscow at the age of 64.
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