Music Unites World and Azerbaijani Heritage

Baku hosts the 8th Uzeyir Hajibeyli International Music Festival

September 12th, 2016
Daniel Erhardt, CD News

The Festival celebrates the life and work of the most renowned Azerbaijani classical composer, a pioneer in uniting European classical music with oriental Central Asian traditional folklore. His eclectic musical opus uniting East and West is performed by international and Azerbaijani musicians side by side, fostering intercultural musical learning and discovery.

Since 2009, this international music festival has put the promotion of Azerbaijani classical music onto the European and wider context, showcasing its unique musical character, between the European classical music stemming from Slavic Russian influence, and the oriental sounds native to the Azeri peoples stemming from the Turkic cultural orbit. Honoured Hajibeyli was a pioneer in creating this fusion through his compositions, bursting with inter-culturalism.

The composer was born in what was then the Persian Suzerainty Khanate of Shusha in 1885. He got inspired to foster the opera genre when, at age 13, he attended a dramatic performance of the Arabic-Persian traditional love story of Majnun and Layla. At age 22, he decided to base upon the story’s scriptures in verse from the 12th Century-Persian poet Nizami and the 16th century Azerbaijani poet Fuzuli to write the Muslim world’s first opera, premiered in Baku in 1908.

This introduction of European-style classical music blended with traditional folklore continued with the adaptation of more of the Azerbaijani traditional epic tales into musical form, with great success. That was the case with his opera “Koroglu” premiered in 1937, based on the homonymous heroic epic tale of revenge from abusive power. This opera earned the composer a USSR State Prize in 1941, seen as a significant cultural homage to national fight spirit.

Hajibeyli was also responsible for the Muslim world’s first operetta, “Arshin Mal Alan” (“The Cloth Peddler”), which premiered in Baku in 1913, a romantic comedy that became very popular. His greatest legacy, beside his compositions is, however, the foundation of the Baku Academy of Music, the Azerbaijan State Choir within the Azerbaijan Philharmonic Society as well as the first music school and Orchestra for Traditional Folk Instruments.

In addition, to even further help promote the music and culture of his own homeland, with “Mainun and Layla”, he actually is said to be the father of Azerbaijan’s own opera style, as it integrates forms of traditional Mugham chants within it, associated otherwise with the mystical Sufi tradition. His opus became so important that, when the country became independent in 1991, it was decided to keep the anthem of the Azerbaijani SSR as the new sovereign state’s one.

As grounds for celebration of the current festival in his honour in September 1995, the composer’s birthday, the 18th of September was designated as the National Music Day in Azerbaijan. This year’s festival is co-organized by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Azerbaijan. It will be held at the Baku Organ and Chamber Music Hall of the Muslim Magomayev Azerbaijan State Philharmonic Hall, Azerbaijan State Academic Opera and Ballet Theater, Azerbaijan Composers' Union and Baku Music Academy.


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