Rauf Abdullayev: "We had to … learn it fine and afterwards perform it well. That's it!"
The Closing ceremony of the 5th International Qara Qarayev Music Festival turned into a historical event. The U. Hajibeyli Azerbaijan State Symphony Orchestra under direction of its chief conductor Rauf Abdullayev and Questa Musica Eensemble (Russia) headed by Philip Chizhevsky performed the "Symphony for eight voices and orchestra" by a classic of European musical avant-garde Luciano Berio. It was a premiere performance in the Post-Soviet Space. It overturned the conventional ideas of a musical composition when it was first played. The program also included two works, which can be called without exaggeration "basic" for the music of the XX century, i.e. "Lontano" by György Ligeti and a Piano Concerto by Arnold Schönberg.
We present you an interview with People's Artist of Azerbaijan, artistic director and chief conductor of the U. Hajibeyli Azerbaijan State Symphony Orchestra, professor Rauf Abdullayev.
Elena Kravtsun: Mr. Abdullayev, on behalf of the public we congratulate you on the perfect performance of the Symphony. This was indeed a historical event.
Rauf Abdullayev: (smiling) Thank you for coming.
Elena Kravtsun: Please tell us, maestro, as you were already a respected conductor, how dared you to perform a contemporary classical music, which was condemned and banned secretly in the Soviet Union?
Rauf Abdullayev: We had already courage a long time ago, in the seventies of the last century. At that time on the initiative of Mr. Qarayev there was organized a Chamber Orchestra at the Opera Studio of the Conservatory in Baku, which was focused in contrast to the state symphony and chamber orchestras exclusively on the performance of the music of the XX century. We played Stravinsky and Ligeti, Nono and Cage, also Russian composers such as Schnittke, Denisov and Gubaidulina. During the 1st Qara Qarayev Contemporary Music Festival we played classical avant-garde by Schönberg, Webern and Berg without any fear. Another thing is that someone might like this music, and some one might not. It is clear that more usual Tchaikovsky and Mozart are geniuses, but there is something else, that equally has the right to exist. He, who does not like the modern music listens to what his intelligence and taste allow.
Natalia Surnina: How often does your Orchestra perform the music of the XX century outside the festival program?
Rauf Abdullayev: I can not say that you can find works by contemporary composers in all of our programs. Recently we performed Lutoslawski, and on April 26 on the centenary of the composer we play his compositions again. This is a joint project of our orchestra with the Polish Embassy in Azerbaijan with the hardest Cello Concerto dedicated to Rostropovich, and a Piano Concerto, I conduct both of these compositions for the first time. We also repeatedly performed his "Book for Orchestra".
Natalia Surnina: Are your musicians accustomed to avant-garde music?
Rauf Abdullayev: Sure, we have not ever had any problems with it!
Natalia Surnina: However, have you ever had your doubts before performing the Berio's Symphony? It is an epochal work on the one hand, and extremely difficult on the other.
Rauf Abdullayev: Of course not! We had to parse this score thoroughly with the orchestra first, then learn it fine and afterwards perform it well. That's it! (smiling)
Elena Kravtsun: Do you think there is any gap between the difficulty level of a composition and the perception of the public?
Rauf Abdullayev: And what were your feelings after the concert tonight?
Natalia Surnina: You responded brilliantly. (expl.note: at the performance during the Berio's Symphony one of the listeners answered the phone call. Maestro turned to the careless listener and waited until he finished talking, and only after that raised the baton again).
Rauf Abdullayev: There are a lot of new music appreciators and composers who know the musical processes of today well and write the appropriate music which we call "modern" both in Azerbaijan and in the whole world. The Festival of "modern" music has finished today which concert program included the works of XX-XXI centuries, and as you could see the audience eagerly accepted them. Together with the classics, which is the basis of our programs at our regular concerts we also play the contemporary music to educate the audience.
Natalia Surnina: How did you choose the compositions for the program, and why did you decide to play Ligeti and Schönberg together with Berio's Symphony?
Rauf Abdullayev: The concert program was prepared together with the artistic director of the Festival Faradzh Karaev. It was his idea the "Three Cross Roads". In the beginning there were four of them, we also planned to play the "Postlude" by Lutoslawski, but the plans changed afterwards.
Elena Kravtsun: Being the first performer of the Berio's Symphony in the Post-Soviet Space, how can you estimate, if it has become the beginning of the end of music, a kind of a source of destruction of art?
Rauf Abdullayev: This composition has a stunning structure. A wonderful feature of the score is that each group of instruments often plays its own music endowed with a profound sense, and there is no a slightest hint of a disorder or chaos, but a kind of spontaneous stereo effect. Is this a kind of music that can become a source of destruction or beginning of the end?!
Elena Kravtsun: How was it to work with QUESTA MUSICA?
Rauf Abdullayev: Perfect, they are just great! The Ensemble came with ready-made, learned parties, and we put the music together for some three rehearsals.
Natalia Surnina: What does the Berio's Symphony mean for you personally?
Rauf Abdullayev: (this time with sadness) It was a very important and significant phase in my life. But I do not know, if there is ever an opportunity to conduct this Symphony once again.
Interview prepared by Elena Kravtsun, Press Center of the Festival