Azerbaijan International

Spring 2002 (10.1)
Pages 28-29

Making Waves
Princeton University Radio Program Features Azerbaijani Music

by Marvin Rosen

"Azerbaijan's music transports me to another part of the world with its exotic melodic line, colorful orchestration and true synthesis of east and west. I'm so attracted by its upbeat mood and improvisational nature." - Marvin Rosen

Marvin Rosen's "Classical Discoveries" radio show airs each Tuesday from 8:30-11 a.m. Eastern Time on Princeton University's radio station, WPRB 103.3 FM. Over the past few years, Rosen has introduced several Azerbaijani musical pieces to his radio listeners that they probably would never have heard otherwise.

For instance, on a program in January 2002, Rosen played Azer Rezayev's "Meditation", a piece that features Ramiz Guliyev on tar accompanied by the Azerbaijan State Chamber Orchestra conducted by Yashar Imanov. Back in Baku, Rezayev, now 72, interrupted his busy schedule to visit Azerbaijan International's office and listen to his music being broadcast live over the Internet. Needless to say, he was thrilled to find out that his composition was being played in the United States.

A week later Azerbaijani composer Haji Khanmammadov, now 84, was featured for his unique Concertos for Tar 1 and 2 - again with performances by Ramiz Guliyev. In March, Rosen featured Soltan Hajiyev's symphonic work entitled "Karvan" (Caravan). On several occasions, he has featured selections from Uzeyir Hajibeyov's operas such as "Koroghlu".

Above: In 1997, Azerbaijan International and Amoco teamed up to produce a set of CDs dedicated to the classical music of Azerbaijan. The six albums include: Symphonic Music, Ballets, Concertos, Piano Music, Opera and Chamber Music, a total of 74 works by 15 Azerbaijani composers. The CD covers, all featuring the work of Azerbaijani artists, are shown above.

After 70 years of living behind the information blockade of the former Soviet Union, these world-class Azerbaijani musicians and composers are finally finding an audience outside the borders of their own country.

My long-time dream of programming and hosting a radio show became a reality in May 1997 when there was an opening at WPRB in Princeton. My show, "Classical Discoveries", features rarely heard selections from all musical periods, with an emphasis on the very old and the very new. It's truly amazing how much worthwhile early and new music is available on CD but is rarely, if ever, played on the radio.

The public's general feeling toward contemporary music deeply concerns me. Many concertgoers suspect that if a concert contains the name of an unknown 20th-century composer, the music will most likely be unmelodic, dissonant and simply not enjoyable. Unless the piece is part of familiar repertoire, often it doesn't get a chance of being heard. I wanted to prove how wrong they were with my program, "Classical Discoveries".

How did I first learn about Azerbaijani music? When I was young, I developed an intense interest in the works of American composer Alan Hovhaness, who was greatly inspired by Eastern music. My interest soon led me on a journey eastward.

Eventually I came across a recording by the great Azerbaijani composer Fikrat Amirov (1918-1982). His work "Azerbaijan Mugham" greatly excited me with its exotic melodies and orchestration. This recording, conducted by the great Leopold Stokowski, really opened my ears and made me very excited about Amirov's music. Stokowski was not only a wonderful conductor but also a very exciting programmer who presented little-known works to audiences. The name Fikrat Amirov would have meant nothing to me had it not been for Stokowski's recording on the Everest label.

A number of years later, an acquaintance mentioned a new six-CD set of Classical Music of Azerbaijan (CMA) that was produced by Azerbaijan International magazine in 1997 and sponsored by Amoco. Since I was already familiar with Fikrat Amirov, I was curious about the other 14 Azeri composers in that compilation of 74 works. I've been enjoying many of those other works ever since and I frequently feature them on my program.

As I tell my listeners, it's amazing how much wonderful music there is all over the world that rarely gets heard. We're missing so much. I don't know why concert halls don't present more of it. For example, I would absolutely love to hear a live performance of one of the Tar Concertos by Haji Khanmammadov. I think a live performance of such a work would "bring the house down!" (Ramiz Guliyev gives an extraordinary performance of it on the CMA set.)

I confess that Azerbaijan's music transports me to another part of the world with its exotic melodic line, colorful orchestration and true synthesis of east and west. I'm also attracted by its upbeat mood and improvisational nature.

I've performed Azerbaijani works in my own piano concerts these past few years, too. For example, I've played four of the eight pieces that Fikrat Amirov composed in 1954. Technically, those works are not so difficult. They could provide an alternative to the Russian composers that piano teachers teach throughout the United States. Kabalevsky and Shostakovich, for example, were great composers, but I think Azerbaijani composers, indeed, offer a change of pace from the standard Russian piano literature.

Music is the Ambassador of Peace to the World. It's imperative for us to learn about composers from all over the world and not be so Eurocentric. I'm so pleased that WPRB gives me this opportunity to present these works to an American audience.

Marvin Rosen has a Ph.D. in Music from Columbia University. Besides hosting the weekly "Classical Discoveries" radio show at Princeton, he is on staff at the Westminster Conservatory of Music. Rosen has recorded two CDs for Koch International Classics featuring the compositions of Alan Hovhaness: "Fred the Cat" and "Visions".

To see a list of the wide repertoire of music that Rosen has played on "Classical Discoveries", visit the radio show's Web site at To listen to the show online, visit during the broadcast time. Azer Rezayev's "Meditation" is included among the 74 works on Azerbaijan International's Classical Music of Azerbaijan CD set (Vol 6, Chamber); also included are: Haji Khanmammadov's Concerto No. 2 for Tar and Orchestra (Vol 3, Concerto); Sultan Hajiyev's Karvan (Vol 1, Symphonic); and selected works from Uzeyir Hajibeyov's operas (Vol 5, Opera). To listen to music samples, visit, click on MUSIC. To purchase, click on AI STORE.


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