Friday, July 16, 2010

The National Anthem of Azerbaijan

On January 30, 1920, the Azerbaijan government announced a competition to create a national anthem, but in the result of the fall of Azerbaijan to the Soviet Union on April 28, 1920, the anthem was not adopted. On May 27, 1992, after the breakup of the Soviet Union, the "Azerbaijan Marsi," (March of Azerbaijan) which was created in 1919 during the brief independence period, was approved as the State Anthem of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The composer of the anthem, Uzeyir Hajibeyov was the same person that composed the music to the anthem used by the Azerbaijan SSR. The lyrics were written by Ahmed Javad.

Uzeyir bey Abdul Hussein Hajibeyov (September 18, 1885, Agjabadi – November 23, 1948, Baku) was an Azerbaijani and Soviet composer, conductor, scientist, publicist, playwright, teacher, translator, and social figure. He is recognized as the father of Azerbaijani classical music and opera. Uzeyir Hajibeyov composed music for the national anthem of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (which is also the anthem of the modern Republic of Azerbaijan) and the state anthem of Azerbaijan SSR.

In 1908, Hajibeyov wrote his first opera Leyli and Majnun based on the tragic love story by the 15th century poet Fuzuli. This would be the first of 7 operas and 3 musical comedies that Hajibeyov would compose throughout his life. In Leyli and Majnun, the uniqueness of the traditional modal music of mugham was incorporated into a Western genre with the use of instruments indigenous to both traditions.

Hajibeyov's second opera Sheikh Sanan was written in 1909 in a form that was entirely opposite to the first. This time Hajibeyov employed a purely European style. Sheikh Sanan received raves as a musical composition, but the content was too progressive for the period. In this opera, Hajibeyov advocated that marriage should not be bound by nationality or religion - in essence, it was another form of integration. But this time, it backfired. The story line follows a religious sheikh on his way to Mecca who meets a very beautiful Georgian lady. To his horror, the lovely creature's father turns out to be a swineherd, caring for what, to him, was a forbidden animal. In the end, the sheikh denounces his religion to win the woman. It is said that when the opera was performed, many people were offended and walked out, leaving Hajibeyov with the realization that he had outpaced his generation too much this time. As a result, he made a drastic decision and burned the score. When asked by Ramazan Khalilov, his assistant, how he could do that, Hajibeyov replied: "I didn't destroy my opera. It's my own creation so it's always in my head." Khalilov said that Hajibeyov went on to use this same magnificent music 27 years later to create, Koroghlu, an opera that many acclaim to be his finest.

In 1908, Hajibeyov wrote his first opera Leyli and Majnun based on the tragic love story In contrast to Sheikh Sanan, Hajibeyov's operas Rustam and Sohrab (1910), Asli and Karam (1912), Shah Abbas and Khurshudbanu (1912), and Harun and Leyli (1915) were entirely based on Azeri folk music elements, primarily mugham. In October 2006, the musical comedy Arshin Mal Alan ("The Cloth Peddler") by Uzeyir Hajibeyov, written in 1913, was announced to be performed on western stages for the first time.

One of Hajibeyov's greatest legacies was bringing forward the idea of establishing a professional music school. Hence the Baku Academy of Music (known then as the Azerbaijan State Conservatoire), was founded in 1920 and named after Hajibeyov after his death. The school has trained Azerbaijan's finest composers such as Gara Garayev, Fikrat Amirov, Jovdat Hajiyev, Soltan Hajibeyov, Tofig Guliyev, and Vagif Mustafazade. His statue "sits" in front of this grand building that is still devoted to the synthesizing Eastern and Western musical traditions.

In 1931, Hajibeyov helped in establishing the Azeri Folk Instruments Orchestra affiliated with the Radio Committee. This orchestra performed European classical pieces, such as those by Mikhail Glinka, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Schubert, Georges Bizet and others. Hajibeyov thus was the first musician to adapt the note system to traditional Azeri musical instruments.

In 1936, Hajibeyov assisted in founding of the Azerbaijani State Choir within the Azerbaijan Philharmonic Society. One of the most serious problems he faced was the mono-voiced repertoire of Azeri folk songs, which allowed harmonization distort style of the song and, on occasion, even alter the melody line when it changed modes. Hajibeyov resolved this problem by using contrapuntal polyphony and unison-doubling rather than four-part singing in the problematic sections.

Hajibeyov devoted much energy to the idea of integrating woman's role and status into the male-dominated world. The concept of women's emancipation runs through many of his works often in the form of comedy or satirization as in the case when he makes fun of the process of selecting marriage partners, a process hindered by the fact that women were still wearing veils until the 1920s when the Soviet regime prohibited them.

The first day cover above features Hajibeyov, the anthem composer, issued in 1995.