Azerbaijan International

Spring 2002 (10.1)
Page 16

Jon Liechty

Pianist and composer Jon Liechty, who has been performing Azerbaijani pieces at his most recent concerts, notes that audiences in the United States love Azerbaijani music. "What's amazing to me is that we've had to wait so long to get to know this music."

Photo: Jon Liechty

This past February, Liechty presented a solo recital that included pieces by Azerbaijani composers Arif Malikov and Sevda Ibrahimova along with Beethoven, Chopin and his own compositions. The concert took place at the Nicholas Roerich Museum in New York City, which is dedicated to the work of Roerich, an early-20th-century Russian painter who was interested in the East.

Liechty first became interested in Azerbaijani music while studying music at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. He and several students at the school (Shahyar Daneshgar and Nasrin Hekmat-Farrokh) founded the Sabá Ensemble in order to perform folk music from the Middle East and Central Asia. The group included a number of Azerbaijani songs in its repertoire.

"I was attracted to the emotional quality of the music and the words," Liechty says. "When I played Azerbaijani music, I felt the freedom to express myself in ways that I couldn't in other music. There's something wonderful there that connects me to Azerbaijan, and I think it's amazing that it connects so effectively, in spite of our differences. I'm grateful to my friends for helping that happen."

In 1999, Liechty moved to Baku to teach English at Western University at the invitation of Rector Husein Baghirov (now Minister of Environment and Resources, see AI 9.4). "I was eager to see where this incredible music came from," he recalls. "It was a thrill for me to be several thousand miles from home, in an unfamiliar place, but to be listening to songs that were so familiar."

During his stay in Baku, Liechty met several prominent Azerbaijani musicians, including composer Arif Malikov, famous for his ballet "Legend of Love" (1961).

When selecting music for a program, Liechty says he tries to incorporate a variety of styles and genres. "Often I play a few pieces that are more familiar to audiences here, maybe something by Chopin, Haydn, or Mozart, which helps them approach the less-familiar works, like Azerbaijani music. Often I include a few Azerbaijani folk songs in the concert."

So far, Liechty has performed Azerbaijani works for piano in New York City, Atlanta (Georgia), Louisville (Kentucky) and Bloomington (Indiana). His repertoire includes (in alphabetical order): Fuad Abdullayev's "Fuga", Elnara Dadashova's Theme and 7 Variations ("Shushtar"), Sevda Ibrahimova's "Moods" (First Notebook), Arif Malikov's "Prelude" and "Mimolyetnosti" (Fleeting Visions), various short piano pieces by Tofig Guliyev, including "Lezgi", and Nargiz Shafiyeva's "Six Preludes".

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