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69 years pass since great composer's death

23 November 2017 10:00 (UTC+04:00)
69 years pass since great composer's death

By Aygul Salmanova

Regarded as perhaps the greatest Azerbaijani composer of all time, Uzeyir Hajibeyli is known as a famous composer, outstanding musicologist, scientist, publicist, teacher and public figure, the founder of professional music and national opera in modern Azerbaijan and the East.

Feeling an irresistible attraction to music, he inquisitively studied the works of great foreign composers, perceiving the best traditions of musical classics.

His unique synthesis of Oriental and Western music significantly promoted the classical music traditions in the East and opened a page of classical music patterns. The unique composer was brave enough to explore blending two incompatibly different cultures at root and achieve an unprecedented synthesis.

History recognizes Hajibeyli as an innovator as well as the first to establish a professional music school and Orchestra for Traditional Folk Instruments, to compose the Muslim world’s first opera and operetta, to introduce a woman on stage, to write the country’s national anthem (which is the official anthem of Azerbaijan today), to be awarded the highest artistic title of the Soviet Union.

The exceptional success of the first opera inspired Hajibeyli to create new operatic works. In a relatively short period, from 1907 to 1913, Hajibeyli composed a number of operas and musical comedies, showing an example of exceptional creative activity.

The idea of the Azerbaijani opera was born in the heart of Uzeyir at age 13, when he watched a dramatization of the story of Majnun at Leyli's Tombstone in Shusha.

Remembering the occasion, Hajibeyli wrote, "That performance affected me so much that when I came to Baku years later, I decided to write something like that."

Hajibeyli later recalled, “At that time, I knew only the basics of sol-fa, and had no idea of harmony, counterpoint, and musical forms ... However, the success of Leili and Majnun was great. In my opinion, it gained popularity thanks to the fact that the Azerbaijani people had expected the appearance of Azerbaijani opera at the stage. And the opera combined authentic folk music and a popular classic story.”

The Cloth Peddler known as “Arshin Mal Alan” is considered as one of the most popular operettas of the composer. The comedic and romantic operetta, which was the composer’s latest opera premiered in Azerbaijan in 1913, became the first operetta in the entire Muslim world.

The greatest creation of the outstanding composer is his opera “Koroghlu” - one of the best has become a classic example of Azerbaijan national opera art.

The composer describes his work at the opera: “While working on Koroghlu, I have put before myself an objective to create a national opera using the achievements of modern musical culture. To put forth such an idea, the composer was required to undergo not only serious theoretical preparation, but also a deep understanding of national creativity, mastering of that style, which enables us to speak with people in an understandable language... It was important to penetrate the opera with breath of national music.”

To realize his artistic plans, the composer was forced to overcome a number of enormous difficulties and obstacles that, in the difficult conditions of the tsarist autocracy, arose at every step and for every reason. He not only composed operas, but also patiently educated the cadres of singers and musicians, attracted directors to work, and was engaged in the arrangement of performances.

With the establishment of Soviet power in the country the Azerbaijani people with great enthusiasm began to create a culture, national in form, socialist in content. From that moment, the diverse talent of Hajibeyli found all the conditions for full bloom. With great enthusiasm, he undertook the creation of a whole range of diverse musical compositions, thus laying the groundwork for new genres in Azerbaijani music.

Hajibayli established Azerbaijan’s first Folk Instrumental Orchestra in 1931 under the auspices of the Azerbaijan Radio Committee. This orchestra of traditional string instruments such as the tar and kamancha performed composed music, as well as traditional improvised music. Hajibayli was also closely involved in the creation of the State Symphony Orchestra which was named in his honor after his death.

Through his music as well as work as a journalist, teacher, and translator, Hajibeyli played a significant role in fighting illiteracy and helped usher in a cultural shift, launching a period of enlightenment that transcended Azerbaijan’s borders and reached many others in the Eurasia region.

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