Azerbaijani composer who puts her own twist on music [EXCLUSIVE]
Khadija Zeynalova has been passionate about music since childhood and her love for it only continues to grow. Seeing her shining eyes with delight at the sound of music, their parents decided to enroll the young talent in a music school.
As for today, Khadija Zeynalova, who currently lives in Germany, is known worldwide as the first Azerbaijani female composer, who in 2007 became a member of German Authors' Society (GEMA).
Founder and artistic director of the Bridge of Sound Ensemble (2016) and the Harmony of Sound International Music Festival (2021), successfully demonstrates her musical masterpieces at large-scale festivals and concerts in Azerbaijan, Turkiye, Hungary, Germany, USA, Canada, Switzerland, Austria, Great Britain, France and other countries.
Giving an inetview to AZERNEWS, a well-known composer has shared her music path and experiences.
Q: How did you start your musical journey as a composer?
A: Having started my independent creative path, I worked as a teacher at the Azerbaijan State University of Culture and Arts for five years. I also taught at Sumgayit Music College and the Fikrat Amirov Music School for ten years. As a member of the Azerbaijan Composers' Union, I have performed my works at plenums and festivals of contemporary music. I currently live in Germany and work as a composer, organist, musicologist and teacher. In 2000, my work "Symphonic Poem" was awarded first place in the nomination "Symphonic Work" at the "Best Work of the Year" competition held in Azerbaijan. During the award ceremony, the National Leader Heydar Aliyev personally congratulated and presented me with a diploma. Azerbaijan State Symphony Orchestra, Gara Garayev Chamber Orchestra and the State String Quartet are among musical ensembles, who perform music pieces composed by me.
My compositions are also played by Vienna Classical Orchestra, DARIAN String Trio (Austria), Duo Simolka-Wohlhauser (Switzerland) and others. My compositions have been published by such music publishers as Laurentius-Verlag, Edition Avantus-Verlag, Furore-Verlag, Ebert-Verlag in Germany, Donemus in Holland and Edition Ferrum in England. In 2023, two of my compositions-Garabagh Suite for Solo Piano and Garabagh Symphonic Poem For Symphony Orchestra have been released with the support of the Azerbaijan Culture Ministry. As a composer, I have written numerous music pieces, including Absheron Suite, cappella works "Mountains", "High World", "Magnus es Domine", "Symphonic dances", "Fairy tale", "In Memory of Gara Garayev", "Longing for Garabagh", music for theatrical productions, etc.
Q: What inspires you to create music? How is your music born?
A: I truly believe that the most important task for a composer is to find his own way of writing high-quality music. Connecting with nature is the best way to boost creativity. I always get a lot of ideas for my compositions in the midst of nature. I also draw inspiration from masterpieces of such geniuses of art as Van Gogh, Peter Paul Rubens, Marc Chagall, Joan Miro, etc. When I visit other countries or cities, I always focus my attention on the landmarks, especially the art museums.Some book characters are also like a breath of fresh air for the composer. I have composed several music pieces under the influence of Russian writers Alexander Pushkin and Mikhail Bulgakov. I am also inspired by the great love for my motherland and most importantly, love for my art. The whole creative process itself is very interesting and exciting. It is such a divine feeling which can be compared to the joy from the birth of the child.
It is very important for me to always be individual, to have my own style and compose in such a way that sparks ignite in people's souls, so that my music touches the hearts of the listeners. I am always inspired and energized by the creative process itself. Before concerts, I am very worried and think about how everything will go. But as soon as I start, all my experiences disappear. Music knows no boundaries, but it knows how to unite everyone. It does not know languages, but it can talk to everyone. I even created my own ensemble called the Bridge of Sound to connect everyone through music. Creative people should always be on the lookout. Every day and every hour in search and always work on yourself.
Q: You are the artistic director of the Bridge of Sound Ensemble. Could you share with our readers the history behind the ensemble?
A: The Bridge of Sound Ensemble is inspired by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's "West-Eastern Divan" poem cycle and was founded in 2016 by me in Detmold, Germany. That is, Goethe once again proclaims this universal human value of Eastern poetry and culture, showing the inner world of a whole culture, and not a person. Our main goal is to build a bridge between cultures and peoples. To date, the Bridge of Sound unites more than 25 musicians from 15 countries. We have a lot of different projects in which I demonstrate a harmonious alliance of European and Azerbaijani musical traditions. From 2017 until now, the Bridge of Sound has performed over 50 concerts and projects. We have released 2 CD-albums and were invited to broadcasts for interviews on such famous German Radios as Deutschlandfunk, SWR, WDR3, RBB Berlin,Radio Bremen, etc. The ensemble`s debut album titled "From the Land of Fire - bridges between Azerbaijan and Germany" was timed to the 100th anniversary of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic.
In 2022, Shusha Symphony premiered at the concert in Berlin. The concert under the motto "Peace and Coexistence" was dedicated to the Year of the Shusha and Azerbaijan's Victory Day (November 8). Over 5,000 guests took part in the gala evening, including deputies of the Bundestag, representatives of the German Foreign Ministry and other government agencies. Supported by Azerbaijan Diaspora Foundation, we released the 2nd CD album "Heinrich and Leyla", to mark the 200th anniversary of the German-Azerbaijani history. In 2023, the Bridge of Sound performed a concert "In Memoriam" dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the National Leader Heydar Aliyev. The concert program included works by Azerbaijani and world classics Uzeyir Hajibayli, Johann Sebastian Bach, Astor Piazzolla and other composers, my own music pieces- "In Memoriam", "Azerbaijani fairy tale" and "Ay Lachin". These are just some of the many projects.
Q: What musical projects have been implemented over the past years?
A: After moving to Germany in 2005, I have been actively involved in organizing certain concerts to familiarize and popularize Azerbaijani musical art. There are a lot of projects, so I will name only a few important concerts and projects from them. The year 2021 was marked in Azerbaijan as the Year of Nizami Ganjavi and the Year of Yunus Emre in Turkiye. As part of the Year of Nizami Ganjavi and Yunus Emre I was invited to Turkiye by TURKSOY as a composer. As part of these events, the Turkish cities of Tekirdag, Edirne, Bursa and Antalya hosted a series of concerts under the name "Turk Dunyasinin shah eserleri", where two of my works, including "Nizami" for a large symphony orchestra and "Ashk Yolu" for a string orchestra were premiered. In 2022, I was invited by the State Committee on Work with Diaspora to participate in the 5th Congress of World Azerbaijanis in April, 2022, which was a great honor for me. Around 400 Azerbaijanis from 65 countries took part in the congress held in Shusha. I will never forget these experiences in my life. I was also awarded a medal for Diaspora activities.
Q: What advice would you like to give to young composers who have just started their musical journey?
A: I truly believe that every person is gifted by God and can achieve a lot. Everyone has different abilities and talents. Our Azerbaijani people are very talented. We have such gifted and incredibly talented musicians and composers, who successfully represent the country all over the world. I am very proud of my compatriots. Don't copy anyone and follow your own path. Only personal experience can boost your individuality. If you put all your spiritual, personal thoughts into each new composition, then your own musical style will form over time. I wish young composers success, patience and, most importantly, work on themselves and love their art.
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