Spring 2002 (10.1)
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
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
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 http://ourworld.cs.com/clasdis/index.html.
To listen to the show online, visit www.wprb.com
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 AZER.com,
click on MUSIC.
To purchase, click on AI
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