TODAY.AZ / Society

Uzeyir Hajibeyli: Pride of nation

18 September 2017 [16:01] - TODAY.AZ

By Azernews

History knows a lot of great masters of word, brush, and music, who showed their talent in a particular area of artistic creativity. But we also know such masters, whose talents are extremely versatile, what is quite a rare phenomenon.

Uzeyir Hajibeyli – “Father of Azerbaijani classic music” - is that rare phenomenon, who crated magic with music and words.

Uzeyir Hajibeyli is the pride of not only the musical art of Azerbaijan, but also literature. For more than 45 years, he worked tirelessly, with exceptional consistency and truly classical scope, which is inherent only in great artists. He developed Azerbaijani music, laid the foundations for new forms, primarily operas and operettas and enriched the world's musical treasures with his ever-living works.

Hajibeyli is the founder of Azerbaijani professional music, the creator of the composer school, the genre of musical comedy in Azerbaijan.

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.

In 1908, Uzeyir wrote his first work - the opera "Leyli and Majnun", which became the first opera in the whole East and opened a new page in the history of Azerbaijani music.

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

The 22 year-old Hajibeyli eventually accomplished a brilliant feat of music, composing the first opera of the Muslim East based on the story of Leyli and Majnun. A Romeo & Juliet-esque story of love that premiered in 1908, the opera was set to poetic verses by the 12th century poet Nizami and later by 16th century poet Fuzuli.

The Leyli and Majnun laid the foundations of mugham opera and national opera in general.

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 success of Leyli and Majnun encouraged Hajibeyli to write more operas, fusing eastern and western styles.

In 1909, Hajibeyli wrote his second opera Sheikh Sanan. In contrast to Sheikh Sanan, his operas Rustam and Sohrab (1910), Asli and Karam (1912), Shah Abbas and Khurshudbanu (1912), and Harun and Leyli (1915) were entirely based on national folk music elements, primarily mugham.

The "Koroghlu" opera is truly the best example of the composer’s creativity; an original masterpiece in which he has expressed in the musical form ideas that excited him like the heroics of the famed Koroghlu himself. This opera won love of all Azerbaijani people in a short time and marked a new stage in development of the Azerbaijan art.

In “Koroghlu", the composer managed to very realistically portray the people’s struggle for freedom and independence and create bright and historically truthful national images.

The composer describes his work at the opera: "While working on Koroghlu, I have put before myself an object 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."

"Arshin Mal Alan" or The Cloth Peddler was the latest and one of the most popular operettas of the eminent composer. The comedic and romantic operetta premiered in Azerbaijan in 1913, thus becoming the first operetta in the entire Muslim world.

"Arshin Mal Alan" become one of the most well-known and dearly-loved stories among Azerbaijanis. The operetta has been successfully performed in a plethora of languages in over 60 countries of the world, including in U.S, Austria, France, China, Greece, India, Russia, and Turkey.

Hajibayli established Azerbaijan’s first Folk Instrumental Orchestra in 1931 under the aegis 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.

Hajibeyli also frequently wrote articles, topical satire and satirical cartoons for Molla Nasraddin magazine, Kaspi and other newspapers. His material tackled political and social problems and the need for education.

Uzeyir played an active part in the formation of the first democratic republic in Azerbaijan (1918-20). He was the editor of the official newspaper Azerbaijan.  

The composer was working on the opera Firuza in his latter years but failed to complete it before his death. Young composer Ismayil Hajibayov finished the piece.

September 18 - birthday of the great composer - is celebrated as the National Music Day.


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