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From the book, "Tracing Unopened Pages" by Atakhan Pashayev, Baku, 2001. This chapter is called, "Uzeyir’s Genius" (pages 425-438) and was written for the occasion of his 110th Jubilee (1995).

The outstanding composer Uzeyir Hajibeyov made a great contribution to the development of Azerbaijani music by helping raise it to its present day level of professionalism. In 1908 he wrote “Leyli and Majnun” opera, thus establishing the basis for Azerbaijani professional music art and national opera. He dedicated his entire life to the education of his nation, establishment of music education, music theory, its development and achievement of the contemporary level. He was the one who initiated the establishment of the school of music composition and devoted so much energy to it, thus raising it to the level where it could compete with the world’s best composition schools.

Back in September 30, 1920 Uzeyir Hajibeyov wrote the National Education Commissariat and addressed the necessity of establishing music education in Azerbaijan on a state level. In his letter he proposed the reorganization of existing music schools in Azerbaijan and the establishment of the Azerbaijan State Conservatory, which would serve both the needs of the national music education as well as specialized music education.

That same year on October 20 addressing the National Education Commissariat for the second time, Hajibeyov wrote: “Eastern music can develop on a true music level only if it is built upon the basis of European music theory. Only then can we define general rules for the Eastern music and determine all of its characteristics.” In the same letter, Hajibeyov proposed to transform Kh. Gaibova’s Eastern Music Classes into the Eastern Department of the State Conservatory and attract musicians who were interested in studying Eastern music from both theoretical and practical points of view.

It’s interesting that even though V. Tomashevsky, Deputy National Education Commissar, gave instructions “to consider the proposals set forth in both of these letters at the next board meeting”, neither of them really were.

The reason for this was that Gaibova, S. Oganezashvili and others were trying to prove that European music theory practices could never be applied to the teaching of Eastern music. Consequently, Eastern music classes would have to be completely separated from European music classes. At the same time Gaibova also addressed the National Education Commissariat asking to make Eastern music education into a separate department. On November 20, 1920 her letter was discussed at the board meeting of the National Education Commissariat.

The summary of the meeting concluded that two controversial directions existed when it came to Eastern music. Adherents of the one “considered that bringing Eastern music to the level of contemporary music would be possible only if the general European music theory were applied to it.” The main supporter of this idea—Hajibeyov—believed that theoretical development and practical study of Eastern music could be possible only under the auspices of the conservatory. Therefore he was convinced that it would be inexpedient to create Eastern Department separate from the conservatory.

As seen from these documents, Hajibeyov was absolutely sure of the rightness of his ideas and would not budge from them. Having studied world music theory at St. Petersburg Conservatory, Hajibeyov, who was a great connoisseur of Eastern music, was absolutely sure that by introducing the European music theory into the teaching of Eastern music, they would be able to develop and prepare theoretical basis for Eastern music.

Starting from that time onward, Hajibeyov studied this issue and by the end in 1945, after several years of intense research, he was able to publish his fundamental work—“The Principles of Azerbaijani Folk Music”. It should be noted that this book is an indispensable resource in studying the theoretical basis of not only Azerbaijani music, but also the entire scope of Eastern music. In order to prove the correctness of his theory in practice, Hajibeyov had to struggle against injustice and hardships. But, still, he did not give up.

On May 25, 1921 addressing the National Education Commissariat again, he summarized the 10-month activity of the conservatory (which offered general education) and emphasized that now that the number of people who wanted to get a music education had already risen to 7,000 students, it was necessary to make certain changes in the field of music pedagogy. Therefore the entire music pedagogic field had to be divided into two parts: one for specialized music education and the other one for general music education.

The Specialized Music Education Department would train professional musicians for the entire republic: singers, composers, musicologists, music teachers, players of various musical instruments, etc. These specialists would be trained at the Conservatory. For this purpose Hajibeyov suggested that Conservatory education should be divided into three-step program. The first step would prepare children for special music education. During these four years (age 8-12), children would get a primary education, and the level of musical talent of each of them would be ascertained.

For the second step, the youth would be selected from among those who passed the first step. Here students would go on to receive a secondary music education. This was considered as a transitional step to the higher levels of music education. And the third step was the higher music education school called Music Academy and would be administered by someon who had the title of Professor.

But for those who had interest in music, Hajibeyov proposed to establish music classes in all the regions of Baku and also in the larger villages, where they would get general music education.

On this letter by Hajibeyov, D. Bunyadzade—National Education Commissar—scrawled a note: “To be approved. To prepare decree about Higher Music Educational School.”

As a result of this letter, the Council of National Commissars issued a decree about establishing of Azerbaijan State Higher Educational Music Academy on August 26, 1921. The decree said: “To establish the Azerbaijan State Higher Educational Music Academy, which would have all the rights necessary for Higher Educational Schools in Baku. All other music schools available in the Republic should turn into the first- and second-step music schools, which would train students for the Academy.”

In order to attract Azerbaijanis to study music and to improve their music education, the Eastern Music Department of the Azerbaijan Sate Conservatory was turned into a separate Azerbaijan Music School in April 1922 and Hajibeyov was appointed its director. His peculiar diligence and persistence was manifested again. In a short period of time, he did an enormous amount to attract Azerbaijanis to get a music education at this school. Very soon this school turned into a technical music school. Special attention was paid to the teaching of Azerbaijani music in the curriculum program of this school. Hajibeyov personally prepared programs for classes in the traditional stringed instruments of tar, kamancha and for traditional mugam singing (khananda).

In August and September of 1926 the National Education Commissariat issued a decree about merging Azerbaijan State Conservatory and State Technical Music School. Hajibeyov was appointed the Educational Assistant Rector of the Conservatory and, in fact, ran it until 1930. Here again Uzeyir started re-organizing the educational system with a resoluteness that was characteristic of him.

During those years Hajibeyov also initiated that actors of the Azerbaijan State Opera Theater should receive their music education from the Conservatory. Among those who were accepted to the Conservatory by Hajibeyov are such famous people as Hagigat Rezayeva, Mammadtaghi Baghirov, Husseinagha Hajibababeyov, Sona Hajiyeva, Khanlar Hagverdiyev, Yavar Kalantarli, Khurshud Khanim Gachar, Alovsat Sadigov, Zulfu Adigozalov and others.

Founder of Professional Music
Back in 1908, when Hajibeyov’s “Leyli and Majnun” was staged for the first time, there were many people who tried to deny the fact that Hajibeyov was the founder of professional music art and national opera in Azerbaijan. They claimed that this could be done only by musicians who had a deep love for European music and who had an extensive music education. It was for this reason that Reinhold Gliere was invited to Baku by the National Education Commissariat and signed a contract to compose the “Shah Sanam” opera based on the epic of Ashig Garib.

For this purpose Gliere was provided with all kinds of assistance and conveniences. Newspapers propagated his work about this opera. He completed Shah Sanan in 1925 and presented it to the theater, where it was staged for the first time in 1927. Despite all the efforts of the National Education Commissariat, the play was not a great success, as had been expected.

That was during a period when considerable propaganda was initiated against Uzeyir Hajibeyov and his works. For example, in September of 1924 in Communist newspaper, a writer by the name of Samit [Atakhan Pashayev: Taghi Shahbazi] wrote an article entitled “Turkic Theater Stage” in which he stated that “… old operas and operettas have disappointed the audience and have set the actors’ teeth on edge, because they have no artistic and musical beauty. We still continue to replace these operas and operettas with new ones, whereas they should totally be eliminated from the stage.”

In October of the same year Hajibeyov responded by writing: “… Mr. Samit, who lacks sufficient education and musical training to distinguish between aesthetic impressions from European and Eastern music, demands with a surprisingly strong belief and courage to remove Turkic operas and operettas from the stage… As for the fact of whom to depend for the future prosperity of Turkic theater and music, let Mr. Samit anticipate this prosperity and true Turkic music works from “Glieres”, with “all four of his eyes”. As for us, we can expect and do expect it from the students who are currently successfully studying at the Azerbaijan State Turkic Music School.”

This article of Hajibeyov lead angered M. Guliyev, National Education Commissar, who had been inviting “Glieres” to Azerbaijan to write European-like music pieces. In an article published in the Communist newspaper on October 9, 1924, he wrote: “… Some people get offended when we say that we have no Turkic opera. But can we call a thing composed of pieces gathered from here and there, and songs in their initial form, as an independent piece of art? Unfortunately, our friends and local musicologists, are involved with philosophical issues of music theory, but from practical point of view, they still have not provided a single written work for our theaters.”

Other articles criticizing Hajibeyov were published as well by Boyukagha Talibli and others, in which “they wanted to whisper in Uzeyir’s ear that the reason for the staging of ‘Arshin Mal Alan’ in various places of the world was not because of its high musicality and profound meaning, but simply the interest that non-Turks take in Turkic world, especially in Eastern music.”

It’s interesting to note that there was a lot of propaganda going on to promote nine Azerbaijani folk songs that were published by Reinhold Gliere and B. Karagichev by order of the National Education Commissariat.

One of the Education Commissars presented these folk songs as if they were a great achievement in Azerbaijani music art. Uzeyir Hajibeyov also expressed his opinion regarding this: “What a pity that pieces called “Turkic Songs”, written by people who are not at all in love with Eastern music and which are full of errors, are being praised, while important works and merits of true devotees of Turkic music are not paid attention to.”

In respect to this Muslim Magomayev wrote: “The work that has been carried out by Gliere annd Karagichev in regard to the study of Azerbaijani folk songs in fact has already been done by Hajibeyov 15 years ago. Therefore these nine songs of Gliere and Karagichev cannot be held up as exemplary for us.”

Up until 1932, newspapers would occasionally write about Hajibeyov’s work on “Blacksmith Gava”. In July newspapers wrote that Uzeyir Hajibeyov had decided to work on an opera about Koroghlu, based on an heroic epic of the same name. As seen from documents, the idea of writing Koroghlu did not appear out of the blue. This was the natural result of his long creative search, the product of his genius.

During the years when Hajibeyov was working on Koroghlu [1932-1936], the attitude towards him was changing as well. In March of 1936 he was awarded with the honorary title of “Azerbaijan Republic Honored Artist”. Hajibeyov, was able to work very fruitfully during those years on Koroghlu, and completed the opera in late 1936. On this occasion “Communist” newspaper in its November 27, 1936 issue wrote that Hajibeyov’s “Koroghlu” opera, which had long been promised to the audience, was now completed and had been presented to theater.

Koroghlu opera was considered to be one of the greatest achievements of Azerbaijani opera culture, which is why Hajibeyov received a significant monetary award as well as the honorary title of National Artist of Azerbaijan Republic.

Hajibeyov, who had been directing Azerbaijan Composers’ Union since its very establishment was appointed as Azerbaijan State Conservatory’s Director in 1939. He held this position till the end of his life, making a huge contribution to the establishing of music art and music education in Azerbaijan and its achievement of the contemporary level.

During all these years there had never been a single outstanding event in the field of music education and musical art that was held without Hajibeyov’s direct leadership or participation. As a result of his work during all those years, he laid a strong foundation for the development of Azerbaijan music culture and music education. It’s thanks to that foundation that Azerbaijani music managed to reach its present-day high level.

Published in the newspaper “Azerbaijan” on September 19, 1995, No. 177.

Translated from Azeri to English by Arzu Aghayeva
Edited by Betty Blair, Editor of Azerbaijan International

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