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Azerbaijan Classical Music


The starting point for the story of classical music in Azerbaijan was the bill that appeared on the streets of Baku on January 12, 1908, and announced that an amateur Moslem theatrical group was presenting the opera Laila and Majnun. The music for the opera based on the poem by Muhamed Fizuli was written by the composer Uzeir Gadjibekov.

The composer turned for inspiration to the folk music of his people—to the songs of the folk-singers that had been passed on from generation to generation. They sang about the popular heroes—the freedom-loving, honest, noble, courageous and kind men of old. These songs are a treasure-trove for Azerbaijani national opera.

After Laila and Majnun Gadjibekov wrote several more works based on folk melodies and Oriental poetry.

A classical example of Azerbaijani opera is Ker Ogly, written in Soviet years. It is rich in beautiful arias, choruses and captivating dances. It was first staged on April 30, 1937, with the composer conducting, and ever since has ranked among the classics of opera.

An Azerbaijani national school of composers includes Kara Karayev, Fikret Amirov, Niyazi, Seid Rustamov, Djangir Djangirov and Arif Melikov.

Kara Karayev's ballets. The Seven Beauties and The Path of Thunder, have been a success both in this country and abroad. The composer's symphonic works are also widely known.

Fikret Amirov chose a different type of music— symphonic mugams which are a form of folk music.

"Mugams", he explained, "are for the most part founded on lyrical themes, with many different variations; they can be dramatic or placid. I decided to cloak them in the richness of symphonic sounds, to show how the mugams would look through a magnifying glass, as it were."

Amirov's first symphonic mugams were based on the classical folk ones Shur and Kyurd-ovshary. They were not confined to the Soviet Union and were played by some of the largest symphony orchestras in the world, for example, the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski.

Arif Melikov, Faradj Karayev, Hay am Mirza-zade and others—have also been brought up in the traditions of folk music.

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