Summer 2005 (13.2)
Personal Memories of Haji Khanmammadov
Master of Tar (1918-2005)
Ramiz Guliyev, World Renowned Tar Performer
I first met
Haji Khanmammadov in 1964 when taking the qualifying exams to
enter Baku Conservatory [now Music Academy]. I was to perform
his Concerto No. 1 for Tar as part of the exam. Haji "muallim"
[honorific title, meaning "teacher"] himself was serving
on the jury. But it was that initial acquaintance during those
student years that led to a 40-year friendship.
Haji Khanmammadov played a significant role in making the Azerbaijani
tar known throughout the world when he chose this traditional,
stringed instrument as a solo instrument in the context of the
first concerto provided the impetus for numerous others to write
such orchestral works including composers, such as Said Rustamov,
Jahangir Jahangirov, Suleyman Alasgarov, Tofig Bakikhanov, Nariman
Mammadov, Ramiz Mirishli, Mammadagha Karimov, Zakir Baghirov,
Adviyya Rahmatova, Firangiz Babayeva and Nazim Guliyev.
20 concertos exist for the tar, with symphonic or folk instrument
orchestras. But it was Haji Khanmammadov who introduced this
genre; thus, he deserves the right to be called the "Johann
Sebastian Bach of Azerbaijani Tar". His enormous success
was due, to a great extent, to the fact that he understood so
well both the tonality and percussive capabilities of the instrument
because he played the tar himself.
Right: Haji Khanmammadov
works are based upon our national roots, our mughams [modal music].
He wrote five tar concertos and dedicated them to various musicians:
No. 1 (Ahsan Dadashov), No. 2 (Haji Mammadov), No. 3 (no dedication),
No. 4 (Gara
his professor and mentor), and No. 5 (me). I performed his Fifth
in 2002 at the Concert Hall of Chamber and Organ music with Azerbaijan
State Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Maestro Rauf
Abdullayev. This performance was recorded on video and broadcast
on television. Haji loved that concerto. Once when one of his
fans commented on liking Concerto No. 2 so much, Haji just smiled
and replied: "You'll change your mind when you hear No.
Haji muallim also composed beautiful love songs, many of them
written specifically for the mournful, soul-searching voice of
one of our most famous singers Shovkat Alakbarova (1922-1993). He was
inspired by the lyrics by Ashug Alasgar and Vurghun but had a particular
fondness for the lyrical poetry of Mikayil
who was arrested and killed in 1937 for his outspokenness during
Left: Haji Khanmammadov with some of Azerbaijan's
most famous composers of the 1970s. First row (sitting): Jahangir
Jahangirov, Shafiga Akhundova, Tofig Guliyev, Haji Khanmammadov.
Second row: Ismayil Hajibeyov, Arif
Emin Sabitoghlu, R. Mirishli, M. Guliyev, E. Rustamov. Third
row: A. Dadashov, M. Ahmadov.
at age 14, Haji muallim fled his country to escape Stalin's revenge,
he arrived, knowing no one in Baku. It was Uzeyir Hajibeyov
who reached out to help him get an education and provide him
with financial support. Whenever I used to go to Haji's house,
he would greet me by saying: "Allah Uzeyir beye rahmat elesin"
(May Uzeyir's soul rest in peace). When I asked him why he always
said that, he replied: "To forget Uzeyir would be like forgetting
God. He was our prophet. We all eat his bread."
Though Haji muallim was not a man of many words, he loved jokes
and anecdotes. He was respected for his integrity and for telling
Haji had many difficulties in life - not just during childhood
when he had to leave his family for an unknown world and manage
on his own at such an early age. He often said that he had no
childhood. He also faced many disappointments - many of them
late in life. For example, his Concerto No. 5, written in 1993,
was not performed until nine years later in 2002. During the
interim, his partitura was lost by administrators, and he had
to write it all over again. In the end, he was only able to publish
a version for tar and grand piano through the generosity of a
of Azerbaijan Symphonic Orchestra Rauf Abdullayev, Composer Haji
Khanmammadov and Tar performer Ramiz Guliyev when the Fifth Concerto
for Tar by Khanmammadov was performed for the first time in 2002.
2. Haji Khanmammadov (left) with Azerbaijan's renown composer
and mentor Gara Garayev (1918-1982) in Moscow, 1968. Garayev
encouraged Haji to write the first Concerto for Tar. He later
went on to write four more concertos for tar, one for kamancha
and another for harp.
so much for a Jubilee to be organized on the State Level for
his 85th birthday. It didn't happen. I kept trying to ease him
by saying that we would celebrate his 90th in 2008, but unfortunately,
he didn't live to see the day. He was 87 when he passed away,
a few days after he had taken a serious fall.
Haji used to say that it was due to the kindness of others that
he had become Haji Khanmammadov, the composer. A rather large
crowd - students, composer friends, musicians - gathered at the
Music Academy this past April to attend his funeral ceremony
- to acknowledge his presence in their lives and to come and
As his lyrical pieces were being performed at that event, I couldn't
help but think that his music was so poignant and tangible in
being able to express passion, joy and the wonders of life, along
with its bitter sadness and disappointments.
Guliyev (born 1947) is recognized as, perhaps, the best Azerbaijani
tar player in the world. He has both performed and recorded some
of Haji Khanmammadov's Concertos for tar.
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AI 13.2 (Summer 2005)
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