17 January 2022

Monday, 05:55



Fuad IBRAHIMOV: “I have never experienced such emotions on any stage in the world”



This young and talented Azerbaijani conductor works in the famous music halls of the world, including in Monte Carlo, Spain, Germany, Italy, China, Russia and other countries. He is well known to a wide circle of connoisseurs of classical music. His concerts are broadcast on the French music channel Mezzo. One of his latest projects was based on the music of Azerbaijani composers Uzeyir Hajibeyov, Arif Melikov, Haji Khanmammadov, and Fikret Amirov. Immortal works of these luminaries have been performed by the Yevgeni Svetlanov State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia. The soloist is an tar player, Honored Artist of Azerbaijan Sahib Pashazadeh. You can feel the young musician’s touch on each melody chosen for the performance. He is very sensitive to the idea and style of the composer, trying not to cross the subtle line between the content of the work and improvisation.

With a wave of his baton, the Honoured Artist of Azerbaijan, laureate of international competitions Fuad IBRAHIMOV mesmerizes the audiences in the legendary orchestras of the world, including  the Philharmonic Orchestra of Monte Carlo, the Santa Cecilia orchestra of classical music, Kremerata Baltica, the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, etc.

The talent and rich inner world of Ibrahimov, who is originally from Shusha, are in harmony with his amazing skill to establish a mutual communication with his audiences. Perhaps this is also a gift. After all, Shusha has always been rich in talents. The story of his extraordinary life began in this city.

Year 1992. The nine-year-old boy Fuad finds himself at the epicentre of Armenia's territorial claims against Azerbaijan and the military events in Garabagh, which turned his world upside down. He knew about the war from books, but the real war was much more terrible. Sounds of bombs and shooting were so close to hear. Fear and awe reigned in the city. There was an expectation for the unknown in the basement of their house, where everyone could breathlessly rely only on prayers. Salvation has finally come. But was it what the people of Shusha expected it to be?! Probably not. Fuad and other people were evacuated on a helicopter, which took them far from his land and his dreams. Fuad’s family, like many other families, left everything in Shusha: home, music school, familiar streets, blue sky and crystal clear air. It was only the memories that Fuad could take with him during the evacuation: as a kid, his grandfather, khanendeh Isa Rahimov and Fuad used to take part in the mugham evenings, play piano for his mother, strolled around the native neighbourhood in Shusha.

Today Fuad Ibrahimov is 39 years old. Thanks to everyone who was involved in the great Victory in Garabagh, he could return to Shusha and visit the spot where he was taken aboard the helicopter almost thirty years ago.


“Your last interviews are full of statements about your return to Shusha and your participation in the Xarıbülbül Festival. If you don’t mind me asking, how was the concert?...”

“In fact, we will not get tired of thanking our valiant soldiers and officers who gave us this taste of victory. Without them, it would not have been possible to get our lands liberated. May every martyr who fell in this war rest in peace... Many thanks to the Supreme Commander Mr. Ilham Aliyev for the victory and the brilliant policy pursued in this direction. The concert in Shusha was excellent. I think it is appropriate to say “words cannot express our emotions”! Seizing this opportunity, I would like to note the high level of organisation of the concert. Those who watched the concert on TV were also happy to notice this. I saw in the eyes of all the organisers and participants of the festival a stormy emotional outburst, boundless admiration and happiness. And I'm sure each of them would say that they did not feel the ground under their feet as the sensations were so overwhelming. It could not be otherwise. As for me, you can multiply these feelings by 100 (smiles). I can say without exaggeration that I was born again. For the first time in all these years, I felt a relief, a taste of freedom... During all these thirty years of the occupation, I felt like I was in a cage.”

“During the first war in Garabagh, you were evacuated with your family. Obviously, that was a hard period of your life and your family could not immediately get back on its feet. What did keep you afloat all these difficult years?”

“Music! Music and my mother. I have been living in Baku since I was 11. When I was 9, we left Shusha and escaped to Aghdam. For a long time, we lived in a sanatorium in Shikh in the vicinity of Baku. But as soon as I came here, I was constantly keeping myself busy with something. I did boxing, drawing, swimming, studied radio engineering, computer science. I have even made my first turntable for records (laughs). But, of course, the music was the main thing keeping me healthy.”

“Why did you choose to perform Fikret Amirov’s Azerbaijan Capriccio at the festival”

“In fact, we could perform anything from our luminaries on the stage in Shusha. But Uzeyir Hajibeyov's Overture has always been on top of all creations. The same is true for Amirov’s Capriccio. I am thankful for the opportunity to stand on the stage in Shusha and, together with our musicians, convey the deep content of this work to the audience. I have never experienced such emotions on any stage in the world! The stage stands where the helicopter took me aboard for a completely different life. And it was there that the justice of history triumphed, allowing us to return and stand on the soil of Shusha with proud.”

“It is the people that create the habitat on the earth, the souls of those who saturate it. Strangers have lived in Shusha for 29 years. During the festival, you walked around your neighbourhood, saw the ruins of your house, walked along the streets. Was it the same Shusha that you left behind years ago? I do not mean your impression on ruins, but the atmosphere and soul of the city...”

“This is a difficult question... My answer is yes and no. Shusha is the same, despite all the acts of vandalism. It's amazing that it was able to withstand and maintain her appearance. Although we had to leave Shusha when I was nine years old, I remember everything as if I was there just yesterday. As a little boy going to buy cherry-plum, playing football, listening to music, the bench where my grandmother used to seat and sell all sorts of things... Everything pops up before my eyes so brightly and in detail. I remember very well exactly where I bought the candies, also known among the locals as khoruz. Shusha is just as dear and unlike any other land. Only with the fellow residents of Shusha one can walk along these streets and eagerly share emotions and memories. We walked around those neighbourhoods with my mother and recalled the moments of our past life there, constantly interrupting each other along the conversation. This is incredible.”

“You are the head of the Baku Chamber Orchestra, principal conductor of the New Philharmonic Orchestra of Munich and the Azerbaijan State Symphony Orchestra. How do you manage all this workload? Is there a difference in working with each of these orchestras?”

“I'll start from the end. Each orchestra has a different approach. Even two orchestras in the same city are different, let alone those in the same country! Working in the national symphony orchestra and the Baku Chamber Orchestra is a completely different way of cooperation. In terms of performance, I mean. There is never enough time in my profession. I don't have time to meet with my friends, even if we work on the same program.”

“So music and you are inseparable...”

“I relax with music. I would say it sort of being on duty. So, in my case, I am not only on duty, but at some point I get used to the process, and it becomes part of my life.”

“Many musicians say that music takes one away mentally. What do you do when you feel that you have lost a mental connection with musicians during a performance?”

“My flight of imagination ends where my work begins. I believe that music should carry away the audience and musicians, not the conductor. My job is to make sure that I can deliver the composer's idea to the musicians as accurately as possible. And so, by nature, I am a realist. Even when I am presented a fact, I am very sceptical, trying to analyse it from all angles until I am convinced or not.”

“Since we are talking about flying. You are also an amateur pilot. According to you, when you are piloting, you feel a spiritual flight, while you feel the land under your feet behind the conductor's steering wheel. Although it seems that both of these activities are inwardly uplifting...”

“Perhaps there is something in common between physical flight and flight in musical realm. But I'm a conductor. I am responsible for the orchestra. First of all, I have to think about the performance. Subconsciously, I always dream of being on top. But I don't want you see this as an attempt to glorify myself. I want to achieve heights not for myself, but for my country, development of the musical sphere in general. And I do this, of course, for my mother, who is expecting so much from me, nourishing me with her faith and support.”

“You came to the orchestra very early, when you were 15 years old. Do you remember these days?”

“Of course. Maestro Rauf Abdullayev accepted me to the Uzeyir Hajibeyov Azerbaijan State Symphony Orchestra when I was 15. I can say that he was the main reason why I fell in love with this profession. He was very strict and demanding, but that was great.”

“Do you still ask our conductors for advice? Which of them do you find more appealing to you?”

“We have a number of good conductors. Everyone has a lot to learn and everyone has something to talk about. Thank God I have no sense of unhealthy competition. I love going to concerts of our conductors, asking them why they did this or that. After that I draw conclusions for myself. On top of everything is a good and healthy relationship from a professional point of view. Rauf Abdullayev always comes to my rehearsals. I clarify some points with him, getting his tips, if you will. But he always shares his opinion after the concert.”

“Legendary Mstislav Rostropovich has contributed to your studies in Germany. In one of your interviews you said that he personally addressed Heydar Aliyev to get you receive education abroad. Why was the maestro interested in you? After all, not every talent enjoys such a privilege of being pleaded for from the head of state.”

“I do not know the details of this conversation. But yes, as I was later told at the Office of the President, maestro Rostropovich asked the national leader Heydar Aliyev for me. Answering your question, I would like to take you a while back. The older I get, the more I realise that if it were not for my mother and the path she took me, I would not have reached Rostropovich. I am grateful to her for this achievement in the first place. And I am also grateful to her because in the most difficult period, in the 1990s, she did not put my talent into question and sent me to a music school. There I met the second significant person in my life, to whom I am grateful for who I am today. This is Tofig Aslanov, my teacher, who listened to me for the first time and said: “This boy should study.” My mother used to say that I was gifted, but Mr. Aslanov’s estimate was a completely different one.”

“More professional than maternal?”

“My mother is also a professional musician. But she is still a mother. Bayandur Mehdiyev taught me at the same time as Tofig-muallim. He is an amazing person who keep inspiring me even today. He constantly organised interesting concerts. My close friend Anar Ibrahimov played an important role in my life too. He is a violinist. I have always tried to play as well as he did. It so happened that we went to Germany together and did everything jointly. Since our last names are the same, we had to explain each time that we were not brothers (laughs). And at some point in time, we stopped doing this altogether. I played in a symphony orchestra, where Rauf Abdullayev inspired me with his strict attitude and rehearsals. I was surrounded by people like Faraj Garayev, with his multifaceted content and performance, and who organises the most interesting concerts. My friend Murad Adigozalzade gave me a chance to work at the Philharmonic. Farhad Badalbeyli, Yegana Akhundova, Director of the Baku Chamber Orchestra... I can extend this list for a long time. I mean I have gone through a very long path before I found myself at one of the masterclasses of Maestro Rostropovich, where he noticed me. My studies in Germany took place thanks to the financial support of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation led by First Vice President Mehriban Aliyeva.”

“And you stayed in Germany after the graduation...”

“I have lived in Germany for 15 years, and all this time I felt an incredible responsibility towards the people who believed in me. In 2005, I finished my studies to become a violist, but all the time I had a great desire to conduct. I had batons at home, and every time I returned home, I used to take them to conduct something from Tchaikovsky, imagining myself in front of a large orchestra. I could not humble this desire in myself. But the question was how I could receive education in conducting in Germany. I was already 25 years old and I had to search for a job. In Azerbaijan, they already knew about my intention to become a conductor. In a documentary film, Farhad Badalbeyli noted this fact: “Fuad loves conducting very much and I believe that he can become a good conductor.” I got an absolutely fantastic opportunity to continue my education thanks to the support of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. In 2011, I graduated from the conducting department of the Cologne School of Music and started my professional career. Everything turned out very well, but I believe that this is a mutual process. I have worked tirelessly and did my best to justify the trust.”

“You met your wife at the Cologne School of Music. In one of your interviews, you said that you have an ideal family. What does make a family ideal?”

“The idea of soul mates. I do not feel that she is a foreigner and she does not feel that I am an Azerbaijani. She is so comfortable here that she does not want to leave. We feel on the same wavelength, if you will.”

“Even in your musical preferences? Your wife is also a musician. Which Azerbaijani melody does she like?”

“Well, I can say that she admires the melisms of our music. Azerbaijani music for her is not like any other. She was surprised to discover that these pieces of music have been created with such a subtle euphony. Of the classics, she loves to listen to the piano concerto on Arabic themes by Fikret Amirov and Elmir Nazirov. She listens to the melodies of Rauf Hajiyev, Tofig Guliyev, Jahangir Jahangirov. She is in love with the talent of the people of our country.”

“What are you working on now?”

“In September and October we have two concerts in Latvia with a living legend Gideon Kremer, and three concerts in Germany. We will also have concerts in October. A fairly large program has been prepared. But most of all I am in anticipation of the concert in Latvia, where we will perform the Nizami symphony by Fikret Amirov with the legendary Kremerata Baltica Orchestra. Many of concerts are planned in Turkey, France, and two concerts in Spain and Russia.”

“Do you perform contemporary classical works?”

“Of course, quite often. I even choose works that are rarely performed. Faraj Garayev, a professor of the Moscow Conservatoire, and the son of the great Gara Garayev, gave me Symphony No.1 by Schnittke. I almost lost my mind and was about to call him back to say that I would not be able to do this. But then I thought: “Well, perhaps he knew that I could and entrusted me such a complex composition.” And I immediately began working on it. Another rarely performed piece of work is that of the German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, Gruppen. It requires three large orchestras led by three conductors, meaning we need a lot of space and painstaking work to do.”

“Let me take you back to Shusha again. This land was so rich of many talented personalities that it has become famous. Have you found the answer why Shusha is so fertile with talents?”

“This is a big mystery. I cannot give you an exact answer. Perhaps it is all about the natural environment of Shusha. It’s air or water... Rather, I accept this phenomenon as a fact. I once said that if you look at Shusha from a bird's eye view, it seems that it is in the palm of God. The incredible location of this place may also be the answer to your question. When my professional career began to take shape rapidly, I also asked this question to myself. Perhaps it's because I'm from Shusha?! Maybe if I were not born there, everything would have turned out completely differently. Everyone, of course, believed in me and repeated: “Here is another native of Shusha.” And I really hope that my work justifies this trust. My goals don't end here. I dream of giving my concerts with the best orchestras in the world in my native land. My Shusha is with us now.”