Summer 2005 (13.2)
Composed the First Concerto for Tar and Symphony
Haji Khanmammadov (pronounced ha-JI khan-mam-MA-dov) was
born in Darband (now part of the Republic of Daghestan in Russia)
on June 15, 1918. He died on April 7, 2005, in Baku. He is best
known for writing the first concertos for both Tar and Kamancha,
Azerbaijani traditional stringed instruments. All in all, Khanmammadov
wrote five Tar Concertos with symphonic orchestra (1952, 1955,
1973, 1983, 1993), a concerto for kamancha (1991), and one for
tar at age 10. In 1932, the boy's life was turned upside down
when his father and uncle were arrested by Stalin and exiled
to Siberia simply because they owned land. They never returned.
On the advice of neighbors, Haji, then 14, was put on a train
to Baku by his mother who was struggling to take care of six
children. She instructed him to find Uzeyir Hajibeyov (1885-1948) whose reputation
in music and personal generosity had obviously spread beyond
Indeed, Hajibeyov did provide lodging for the boy and, after
being convinced of his musical abilities, the Baku composer enrolled
him in the Asaf Zeynalli Music College where he took tar classes
with Said Rustamov. Khanmammadov would go on to develop into
a fine tarist. He performed at the First Decade of Azerbaijan
Art in Moscow in 1938 when Hajibeyov's opera "Koroghlu" and music comedy
were part of the repertoire.
Left: Azerbaijani tar player and composer
Haji Khanmammadov, who was famous for having written the first
concertos for tar and kamancha, two traditional stringed instruments.
February 1976. All Photos of Khanmammadov: Courtesy of Haji Khanmammadov's
In 1947, Khanmammadov
entered the Azerbaijan State Conservatory to study folk music
with Hajibeyov and composition with Gara Garayev. He graduated in 1952.
It was Garayev, whom Khanmammadov considered to be a genius,
who challenged him to write a concerto for tar and symphonic
orchestra for his graduation piece.
Khanmammadov also wrote two successful musical comedies: "One
Minute" (1961) about the life of oil workers (lyrics by
Maharram Alizade in Azeri), and "All Husbands Are Good"
(1971, lyrics by Aleksandr Khaldeev). He also composed about
150 vocal songs, many of which were written specifically for
the plaintive voice of Shovkat Alakbarova (1922-1993).
In addition to his work as a composer, Khanmammadov was involved
in administration as Director of the Azerbaijan Music Comedy
Theatre (1944-1948), Artistic Director of the Azerbaijan State
Song and Dance Ensemble (1952-1954), and Director of the Azerbaijan
State Philharmonic (1966-1968).
Above: Haji Khanmammadov was
sent to Tabriz, Iran, in 1946 for nine months to create a philarmonic
orchestra. This was part of the plan to exchange culture as Stalin's
support of Pishavari government. However, when Stalin, lured
by a deal to explore Iran's oil, withdrew his support, Pishavari's
government collapsed. Haji nearly lost his life trying to return
to Azerbaijan. Tens of thousands of people were killed by Iranian
troops. Photo: Tabriz, 1946, at the "Gulustan Baghi".
Haji Khanmammadov, center.
Left: Composers Rauf Hajiyev, Dmitri
and Aghabaji Rezayeva, March 1956 in Baku.
At the end of
the war in 1945, the Soviet Government, eager to support the
autonomous movement of Azerbaijanis in Iran, attempted to carry
out various projects in Tabriz, Iran. Among various cultural
endeavours, Khanmammadov was sent there to establish a Philharmonic
Orchestra. Within nine months, he succeeded in opening the Philharmony.
political experiment was short-lived. Stalin, lured by the promise
for exploration rights for Iran's northern oil, was persuaded
by Iranian Prime Minister Gavam to withdraw his support for Pishavari's
autonomous government [Azerbaijan National Government, Azarbaycan
milli hukumati], causing it to collapse overnight. The Iranian
army moved in and an estimated 20,000 people were massacred.
Thousands fled across the border into Soviet Azerbaijan. Khanmammadov
barely escaped with his life.
With Stalin's troops out of the way, the Iranian Parliament refused
to ratify the handshake with Stalin, and the deal fell through.
The end result for Iran was that the Soviet military had successfully
been kicked out of the region.
(center) 1878-1948, befriended Haji, when he arrived in Baku
as a 14-year-old boy from Daghestan, fleeing from Stalin's regime
which had arrested and sent his father and other relatives to
Siberia. Sitting from left to right: Jahangir Jahangirov, Uzeyir
Hajibeyov and Ashraf Abbasov. Standing from left to right: Adil
Geray, Hokuma Najafova, Aghabaji Rezayeva, Haji Khanmammadov,
Adila Huseinzade, Shafiga Akhundova, Eyyub Sheikhzamanov and
Aghakarim Aliyev. Late 1940s.
to school and to building a career in music. His contribution
to Azerbaijan's music was acknowledged on the State level with
the following awards: Honored Art Worker of Azerbaijan Republic
(1967), People's Artist of Azerbaijan (1988), Professor of the
Azerbaijan State Conservatory (1993), Order of Honor (1998),
and the coveted Presidential monthly stipend, beginning in 2001.
Khanmammadov is survived by his wife Asya khanim and two sons,
Anvar, and Nadir, who resides in Canada.
Matt O'Brien is the
compiler of the "Dictionary of Azerbaijani Composers",
a work in progress which, when published, will be the first comprehensive
introduction of Azerbaijani composers in English available to
researchers and Azerbaijani music lovers internationally. Contact
Matt: firstname.lastname@example.org. Betty Blair and Ulviyya
Mammadova also contributed to this article.
Read more about Haji Khanmammadov in Azerbaijan International:
"Famous People: Then and Now: Composer
AI 7.4 (Winter 1999). Search at AZER.com.
(13.2) Summer 2005.
© Azerbaijan International 2005. All rights reserved.
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