Autumn 2002 (10.3)
Violin Played at Fire Worshippers' Temple
The Italian Embassy in Baku
held a "Concert for Peace" at sunset on August 31,
2002 at Atashgah ["Place of Fire" in the Persian language],
the fire worshippers' temple in the town of Surakhani near Baku.
This structure was built in 1810 by Zoroastrians-specifically
Parsees from India - who worshipped fire and made pilgrimages
to Baku to marvel at the fires created as natural gas escaped
through fissures in the ground's porous limestone. This was the
first time that the temple complex, now a museum site, was used
as an evening concert venue.
"The Italian ambassador, Margherita
Costa, and I thought that the Fire Temple would be a magical,
romantic setting for a concert," said Nicolo Tommaso Portacci,
head of the Italian mission in Baku. "We also chose it because
Zoroaster's philosophy related to peace. The main reason for
this concert was to promote peace for Nagorno-Karabakh and bring
attention to Azerbaijan."
The "Concert for Peace" featured performances by the
Baku State Chamber Orchestra named after Gara Garayev, conducted
by Teymur Goychayev. Specific pieces included Waxman's "Carmen
Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra", after the opera by Bizet;
Saint-Saens' Rondo Capriccio; Pablo de Sarasate's Gypsy Melodies;
Jules Massenet's "Reflection", Paganini's Capricci
and "Eternal Movement" and Gara Garayev's Violin Concerto.
Above: Concert goes enjoy an alfresco "Concert
for Peace" hosted by the Italian Embassy at the Fire Worshippers'
Temple near Baku.
Left: Italian Ambassador Margherita Costa
(center) holding the priceless Paganini violin that was brought
to Azerbaijan specifically for the event.
Right: Young Azerbaijani violinist Anar Ibrahimov
performed on Guarnieri Paganini's violin.
of the highlights of the evening took place when the young Azerbaijani violinist
Anar Ibrahimov performed on an 18th-century Guarneri violin that
had once belonged to Niccolo Paganini (1782-1840), who is widely
considered to be the greatest violinist of all time. Anar competed
in this year's Tchaikovsky Competition, which was held in Moscow
June 6-23. He is the first violinist from Azerbaijan who has
ever qualified to participate in this esteemed world-class event.
"Paganini was unique in the world of the violin," Portacci
said. "He had very unusual fingers." In his day, Paganini
astounded audiences with techniques that included harmonics,
double stops, pizzicato with the left as well as the right hand,
and nearly impossible fingerings and bowings.
Paganini's Guarneri violin was brought from its home at the Palazzo
Tursi, seat of the Municipality of Genoa, Italy. Paganini called
this violin "il Cannone" (the Cannon) because of its
powerful, sonorous voice. Today, the violin is only performed
on very special occasions. It is a great honor for any violinist
to be granted permission to perform on it.
Originally, the concert's organizers had hoped to bring Paganini's
Stradivarius violin to Azerbaijan, but after the September 11,
2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, the Italian government
no longer allows such a priceless violin to be transported out
of the country.
The invitation-only concert at Atashgah attracted close to 500
guests. All of the expenses for the concert, including transportation
of the Paganini violin, were covered by the embassy.
"This concert was a dream come true for us," said Portacci.
"Being able to have Paganini's violin come to Azerbaijan
and then hear it played at the Fire Temple was a once-in-a-lifetime
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