Azerbaijan International

Winter 1997 (5.4)
Page 65

Pulling Out All The Stops
Organ Music in Azerbaijan

by Tahira Yakubova

Organ Music in AzerbaijanOne of the newest types of musical art which has gained considerable popularity in Azerbaijan is organ music.

Left: Pipe organ in the Grand Performance Hall of the Academy of Music.

Its history dates back to the turn of last century when the oil industry attracted many foreigners here, especially Europeans. At that time, the Lutheran and Catholic churches in Baku both had organs and used them for concerts as well as for worship services.

In 1910, A. Gorsehagen, a graduate of Leipzig High Musical School, was invited to Baku to perform on the "Walker Organ" in the "Kirche" (German for "church" referring to the Lutheran Church in Baku). His evening organ performances became a tradition and played an important role in the evolution of Baku's music scene.

When the Soviets took over in 1920, Stalin decreed that all religious buildings-churches, temples and mosques-be closed. Many places of worship were destroyed. In 1939, the pipe organ from the "Kirche" was dismantled and taken to the Music Conservatory (now, Music Academy). But in the process of moving, the organ was so badly damaged that it became impossible to restore.

Organ's Comeback
The revival of organ culture is largely due to efforts by the first Azerbaijani organist, Z. Jaffarova, who studied under the famous Soviet organists I. A. Bryanzo and L. I. Royceman. She became a professor at the Azerbaijan State Conservatory and under her guidance about 50 students received training. Since then, many of them have performed in various cities through the Soviet Union and on radio and television. Soon afterwards, prominent organ players came to Baku from many various countries, such as France, England, German, Sweden, Austria, Italy and Finland.

Pipe organs were built to accommodate this resurgence of interest. In 1961, a small organ (8 registers) was installed at the Zemann Firm. In 1964, the concert organ "Oule" (37 registers) was installed at the Grand Hall of the Conservatory. In 1990, the new "Rieger Klaus" organ (43 registers) was set up in the sanctuary of the "kirche" where the acoustics provide a superb environment for organ, as well as symphonic and chamber orchestra, concerts.

Composing for Organ
Given the capabilities of the organ to establish various colorings and nuances through the use of different registers, the pipe organ lends itself well to the improvisational mugams of traditional Azerbaijani music. One of the first works written for the organ was Kazim Aliverdibeyov's fantasy "Mugam Bayaty-Shiraz."

In the 1960s and 1970s, there was a tendency to create organ works of the Baroque style in the form of preludes, fugues, chorales, and fantasies. By the 1980s, artists began writing major pieces including symphonies which featured the organ as lead instrument.

Among the most well known organ composers is Aref Mirzoyev. Born in 1944, he was a student of the Azerbaijani composer Gara Garayev. Mirzoyev's "Organ Symphony in Memory of J.S. Bach" written in 1984 won the 11th Johann Sebastian Bach Silver Medal in 1994. Most recently, in November 1996, it was performed in Westminster Abbey in London by Alexander Fiseisky, the official organist with the Moscow State Philharmonic Society.

Other notable works include Z. Bagirov's "Passacaglia" and "Fugue," F. Alizade's "Fantasy" and H. Mirzazade's "Cycle of 12 Preludes" and "Black and White."

Tahira Yakubova, Ph.D. is Professor of Organ at Baku's Academy of Music.

From Azerbaijan International (5.4) Winter 1997
© Azerbaijan International 1997. All Rights Reserved.

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