"Enlightenment in Azerbaijan; A Tribute to Uzeyir bey Hajibeyov"

Fri 20 Sep 2013 01:43 GMT | 05:43 Local Time

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by Jamila Javadova-Spitzberg, Doctor of Musical Arts, University of Texas at Dallas.

We just celebrated the 128th anniversary of the birth of one of the finest Azerbaijani musicians and profound intellectuals whose life and works changed the history of Azerbaijani and overall Eastern music world forever--Uzeyir Hajibeyov.
 
The legacy of Hajibeyov is huge.  I would say he began the Era of Enlightenment in the history of Azerbaijani musical culture.  He was first to compose Western types of “operas in musica”, both in comic (buffa – “ Arshin Mal Alan/The Cloth Peddler” 1913) and serious (seria  - “Koroğlu /The Blind Man's Son” 1937) genres.  It is noteworthy to mention a recent triumphal performance of the “Arshin Mal-Alan” comedy by leading American opera singers marking the centennial anniversary of its premier at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, CA.  This performance was staged and produced by Michael Schnak, who has led numerous productions in major houses in Europe and the US, including Hajibeyov’s “Arshin Mal Alan” comedy in Vienna in 2006.  The festivities commemorating the 100th anniversary were held in France at the headquarters of UNESCO in Paris as well as in Strasburg.
 
Revolutionary thinker Uzeyir Hajibeyov fought for and supported equality for women in male dominated Eastern society.  The female characters in his operas are strong, independent and powerful.  He fully embraced the progressive (for its time) European musical culture and education.  In a 1921 essay he wrote, "We need to musically educate our people by teaching them the works of eminent classical composers such as J. S. Bach, L. van Beethoven and W. A Mozart."  He chose the Western Classical Musical forms/structures to express his compositional ideas.  However, Hajibeyov never abandoned the sound of traditional Azerbaijani music with its roots in folk music and colors in the Eastern musical mode/scale system.  His music language was always deeply Azerbaijani.  Thus, he was the first to achieve a fine synthesis between Western forms and Eastern music vocabulary.   Inspired by classical European orchestras, he adapted the note system to traditional instruments and he founded the first orchestra of folk instruments in Azerbaijan performing works of European composers.
 
In 1920 by founding and establishing a college of music- Azerbaijan State Conservatory (in 1991 it was renamed to Music Academy)-- Hajibeyov touched the lives of many young talented students.  Composers G. Garayev, F. Amirov, J. Hajiyev, A. Melikov, A. Zeynally, T. Guliyev, F. Alizadeh; performers K. Safaraliyeva, F. Badalbeyli, Ch. Sadikhov, E. Nazirova, F. Guliyeva; and singers  M. Magomayev, R. Behbudov, Sh. Alekperova, F. Gasimova and many others are among the outstanding graduates of the Uzeyir Hajibeyov School.
 
Today, the finest music school of Azerbaijan is known to be the Uzeyir Hajibeyov Music Academy.   His monumental statue built by Tokay Mammadov is elevated in front of the Academy as a symbol of music, inspiration and creativity.
 
I am proud to be an alumna of the Music Conservatory in Baku founded by Uzeyir Hajibeyov.  As such, I am grateful to this humble, wise intellectual of the twentieth century for changing the course of world music history forever.

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