Author: Elia ANVARLI
“Life, death, love, compassion, and inspiration – music to say everything.” These words of Chingiz Aitmatov can also be attributed to the works of an Azerbaijani composer, the Honoured Artist Sardar Farajov, who has already had his say in music, which is diverse from symphonic, chamber, choral, and stage music to soundtracks for cinema.
Sardar Farajov has a truly creative personality; he can surprise. In 1991, at the summer workshop in Austria dedicated to contemporary music, he took with him a tar, as did the composer Fikret Amirov. During the workshop, he performed two mughams, Shur and Chahargah. His performance was so impressive that it was sound recorded. Sardar Farajov was the only performer over there to receive an international certificate. After ten years, the Austrian composer Ul Dieter Soyko composed his opera Leila's Dreams based on Azerbaijan fairy tales and introduced the tar to the orchestra by inviting Sardar Farajov to play it. This was followed by four premieres held in Vienna during a month.
The composer also wrote vocal ballads for the Grand Symphony Orchestra (GSO) based on Huseyn Javid’s poem Gachgyn (Refugee), Ode dedicated to the national leader Heydar Aliyev for baritone, chorus and GSO, symphonic fresco Funeral Chimes dedicated to the memory of the martyrs, as well as various plays awarded with diplomas at various competitions in Azerbaijan. We interviewed Sardar Farajov in the museum of our great composer Uzeyir Hajibayov, where he works as a director.
Now it is clear why your bright and emotional music is full of the spirit of Uzeir Hajibayov...
I have been working in this museum for many years. I mainly deal with archival materials, and sometimes I have to restore the lost notes.
How did you start your musical career?
I have been very fond of our national instrument tar since my childhood. I literally did not part with it. Initially, it took me seven years to study music at the musical school, then at the Asaf Zeynally Music College in Baku. I took the class of tar from Bahram Mansurov, who was the renowned expert in mugham. He helped me to develop my compositional thinking. In the second year, I began attending composition classes of Aziz Azizli. I already had some professional experience when I entered the conservatory. My teacher was Professor Khayyam Mirzazadeh, People's Artist of Azerbaijan, the prominent representative of the Gara Garayev School. I wrote many pieces when I was a student, but much of this collection was not strictly student. These works were presented at various international festivals and competitions. For instance, at the Transcaucasian Festival of Wind Instruments, my trio was appreciated along with my teacher's quintet. My diploma thesis was a three-part symphony written for the Grand Symphony Orchestra and sent to Moscow for the All-Union Competition of Young Composers. This work was awarded a diploma for the third place. Interestingly, the State Symphony Orchestra of Cinematography conducted by Yuri Nikolaevsky performed it in public only seven years later. In Baku, however, it was performed in 1989 by the Uzeyir Hajibayov State Symphony Orchestra conducted by Rauf Abdullayev during a youth festival. During 1985-1988, I was an assistant trainee of Prof. Mirzazadeh at the Department of Composition of the Conservatoire. The works written at that time including the vocal collection based on Vagif Jabrailzadeh’s poems, Concert Stage for two grand pianos, A Scene from the Novruz Folk Festival are often performed in Azerbaijan and abroad (Moscow, Kazan, Istanbul, Germany, the USA, etc.). And before I finished my postgraduate studies, I composed two Shah Khatai symphonies.
What about your choral works?
Choral music has always attracted me. Following the competition of the Azerbaijan Choral Society, where my arrangements of folk songs took the third place, I composed Diptych, a concert for the mixed choir a capello dedicated to the 100th anniversary of Uzeir Hajibayov. It is based on Samad Vurgun’s two poems dedicated to Uzeyir Hajibayov: Requiem (to the death of the composer) and Gloria (to the composer's 60th anniversary). This concert was first performed in 1987 by the Chamber Choir conducted by the Honoured Artist Laman Atakishiyeva. It was at her request that the first choral concerts of Azerbaijani composers, including Jahangir Jahangirov’s one-part concert in mugham style, were written for her chamber choir famous in those years.
You started working in this holy place, the House Museum of Uzeir Hajibayov, in 1984 and became its director in 2005. Right?
Yes, at that time I started giving speeches at various international and republican conferences, publishing my works in scientific journals, and working with the television and radio. I even hosted a music program on the Madaniyyat TV, where I discussed the problems of this museum and the culture life of Azerbaijan in general. I told my audience about the creativity of khananda (singers of mugham, R+) and professional conducting. In 2013, I was a jury member of the popular television contest Mugham.
You are also gifted as a poet, are not you?
My collection includes about thousand poems, plays, and stories. I did translations of Pushkin, Lermontov, and Voznesensky. But I think my biggest achievement is the revision and publication of Uzeyir-bey’s unfinished works. For example, two anthems, one of which is Azerbaijan, the anthem of the Republic of Azerbaijan. For many years, the revision of Uz. Hajibayov’s works was the main direction of my activity. These include the well-known operettas If Not That One, Then This One, Husband and Wife, Arshin Mal Alan, opera Asli and Kerem. In 2008, the 100th anniversary edition of Leila and Majnun, the first opera produced in the East, was released upon my initiative. In the same year, the feature film Arshin Mal Alan (1945), was nominated for the Best Musical of the Twentieth Century award in Moscow, Russia. I received the award due to Uzeyir-bey, and took it home, to our museum. This is a small gilded statuette turning into a film band. In 2009, I carried out a laborious research work restoring several acts from the Sheikh Sanan opera as part of celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the opera. In general, I have compiled and edited more than ten books on Uzeyir Hajibayov. This work is ongoing. I also published a calendar about the achievements of our great composer, wrote a radio play Swan Song, produced, and edited a television documentary about the Azerbaijani genius. In 1995, on the 100th anniversary of Uzeyir Hajibayov’s wife, Maleika-khanim, I composed the Unsung Lullaby.
In September 2013, I took part in the event organized by UNESCO for the 100th anniversary of the musical comedy Arshin Mal Alan, which was successfully staged in Los Angeles, Paris, and Strasbourg.
You must be a big patriot considering your fanatical, laborious work and a reverent attitude to the heritage of our genius composer, the preservation of his music...
I think that everyone would do the same...
When did you start your active cooperation with various Azerbaijani theatres?
In 1996, I wrote a theatrical anthem for the choir and the Grand Symphony Orchestra, which was performed by the actors of the Youth Theatre. My musical comedies and operettas are still on stage. Some of my works written at the request of the American conductor and composer John Hynes were performed in the United States and other countries.
You avidly promote the musical culture of Azerbaijan. For example, your symphonic fresco The Legend of Koroghlu, which was first performed in 2013 during the Days of Azerbaijani Music in Kiev and warmly received by your Ukrainian colleagues. You also teach at the National Conservatoire, are a secretary of the Union of Composers and composer, and so on. How do you manage so much?
It is possible, if you love your profession. I am only concerned that not all of my works have been performed yet.
I was impressed at the concert in honour of your 60th birthday you joyfully hastened with flowers to the stage to thank the artists who performed your music after each performance...
I do appreciate the work of my colleagues...
What are you working on now?
I continue working on an opera, and my ballet based on the historical theme of Javad-khan is being worked on for the 100th anniversary of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic.
Thank you very much for the interview. We wish you all the best!