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Uzeyir Hajibeyov

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Uzeyir Hajibeyov
Üzeyir Hacıbəyov
Hajibeyov in 1945
Uzeyir bey Hajibeyli

(1885-09-18)18 September 1885
Died23 November 1948(1948-11-23) (aged 63)
  • Composer
  • musicologist
  • teacher

Uzeyir bey Abdulhuseyn bey oghlu Hajibeyov[a] (18 September 1885 – 23 November 1948) was an Azerbaijani composer, musicologist and teacher. He is recognized as the father of Azerbaijani classical music.[1]

Hajibeyov composed the music of the national anthem of Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (which was re-adopted after Azerbaijan regained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991). He also composed the anthem used by Azerbaijan during the Soviet period. He was the first composer of an opera in the Islamic world.[2][3] He composed the first oriental opera Leyli and Majnun in 1908 and since then he is revered for adapting the written masterpiece to the theatre.[4]

Early life[edit]

Uzeyir Hajibeyov was born in Aghjabadi, near Shusha of Azerbaijan, on 18 September 1885.[1] His father, Abdulhuseyn bey Hajibeyli, was the secretary to Khurshidbanu Natavan for many years, and his mother, Shirin, grew up in the Natavan household.[5] Growing up, Hajibeyov was strongly influenced by Natavan's work.[6]

Shusha, often dubbed as the cradle of Azerbaijani music and culture, had a reputation for its musical heritage. The town was also referred to as "the Music Conservatory of the Caucasus" because of its many talented musicians and singers. And the fact that Hajibeyov grew up in Shusha explains how at 22, in 1908, with very little formal musical education, he was capable of writing a full-length opera.[7][8][9]

Huseyngulu Sarabski as the first Majnun in the opera Leyli and Majnun (Baku, 1908).

Hajibeyov received his early education in a religious school (madrasah),[10] where he perfected his Arabic and Persian.[citation needed] Later he studied at a two-year Russian-Azerbaijani school.[10] Here, with the help of his favorite teacher Mirza Mehdi Hasanzadeh, he familiarized himself with the heritage of the famous classic writers of the East and the West. The richness of the musical performance tradition of Shusha greatly influenced the musical education of Hajibeyov. He would later reflect on his experiences: "The first musical education I got as a child in Shusha came from the best singers and saz-players. At that time I sang mughams and tasnifs. The singers liked my voice. They would make me sing and teach me at the same time." Uzeyir Hajibeyov's first teacher was his uncle Aghalar Aliverdibeyov, an excellent connoisseur of Azeri folk music. In 1897–1898, when Azerbaijani playwright Abdurrahim bey Hagverdiyev and singer Jabbar Garyaghdioglu staged the episode Majnun on Leyli's grave from Leyli and Majnun, 13-year-old Uzeyir sang in the choir.[11] From 1899 to 1904 Uzeyir Hajibeyov studied at the Gori Pedagogical Seminary. There, along with general education, he also acquired music. In this school, Hajibeyov learned to play the violin, the violoncello and the brass instrument. After his graduation from the Pedagogical Seminary, Uzeyir Hajibeyov was appointed a teacher to the village of Hadrut in Upper Karabakh. Having worked there for a year, Hajibeyov permanently settled in Baku, where he carried on his career in teaching mathematics, geography, history, Azerbaijani and Russian languages, and music. He wrote the Turkic-Russian and Russian-Turkic Dictionary of Political, Legal, Economic and Military Terms, Used in Press in 1907 and the textbook Arithmetic Problems in 1908, and had them published by the Orujov Brothers Publishing House in Baku.[12]

Hajibeyov was no stranger to the tragic chaos of war; he lived through the Revolutions of 1905 and 1917, the fall of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan in 1920, and both World Wars. The political repercussions of these military conquests often manifested in other forms of chaos. For example, between 1920 and 1940, the alphabet systems for writing Azerbaijani were changed three times — from Arabic to Latin, and from Latin to Cyrillic[13] — a process which greatly hindered and interrupted the educational and cultural process, and may well have been one of the factors influencing Uzeyir Hajibeyov to present his ideas verbally on the musical stage.

Merging traditional and Western styles[edit]

Uzeyir Hajibeyov with his wife

Throughout all the tumultuous change in Azerbaijan that took place between 1900 and 1940, one characteristic consistently reflects the character of Uzeyir Hajibeyov. He always searched for ways to merge and integrate the past with the present, rather than to discard either form. Rather curiously, even files at the Gori Pedagogical Seminary have shown his persistence in holding on to his own roots even under pressure. On 3 December 1900, when he was 15, it is noted that "the student, Uzeyir Hajibeyov, was rebuked because he was talking in his native language." Conversely, when Russian-influenced musicians tried to ban traditional Azerbaijani instruments like the tar, zurna and kamancha, Hajibeyov and his colleagues pushed to incorporate them into the Western orchestra, thereby, giving them an even higher status and ultimately a chance to survive. The great composer U.Hacıbeyov had the opportunity to open music schools that combined various educational systems. In these schools, national cadres who could integrate into the world music culture were trained. The history and music theory of Azerbaijani music were researched, and education classes were written. Uzeyir Hajibeyov in the field of music education combined and created in Azerbaijan Western and East traditions.


Uzeyir Hajibeyov's manuscript of Arshin Mal Alan, written in 1913.

In 1908, Hajibeyov wrote his first opera, Leyli and Majnun, based on the tragic love story[14] by the 15th century poet Fuzûlî. This would be the first of 7 operas and 3 musical comedies that Hajibeyov would compose throughout his life. In Leyli and Majnun, the uniqueness of the traditional modal music of mugham was incorporated into a Western genre with the use of instruments indigenous to both traditions.[15]

Hajibeyov's second opera Sheikh Sanan was written in 1909 in a form that was entirely opposite to the first. This time Hajibeyov employed a purely European style.[15] Sheikh Sanan received raves as a musical composition, but the content was too progressive for the period. In this opera, Hajibeyov advocated that marriage should not be bound by nationality or religion - in essence, it was another form of integration. But this time, it backfired. The story line follows a religious sheikh on his way to Mecca who meets a very beautiful Georgian lady. To his horror, the lovely creature's father turns out to be a swineherd, caring for what, to him, was a forbidden animal. In the end, the sheikh denounces his religion to win the woman. It is said that when the opera was performed, many people were offended and walked out, leaving Hajibeyov with the realization that he had outpaced his generation too much this time. As a result, he made a drastic decision and burned the score. When asked by Ramazan Khalilov, his assistant, how he could do that, Hajibeyov replied: "I didn't destroy my opera. It's my own creation, so it's always in my head." Khalilov said that Hajibeyov went on to use this same magnificent music 27 years later to create Koroghlu, an opera that many acclaim to be his finest.[16][17]

In contrast to Sheikh Sanan, Hajibeyov's operas Rustam and Sohrab (1910), Asli and Karam (1912), Shah Abbas and Khurshid Banu (1912), and Harun and Leyli (1915) were entirely based on Azerbaijani folk music elements, primarily mugham.[15]

In October 2006, the musical comedy Arshin Mal Alan ("The Cloth Peddler") by Uzeyir Hajibeyov, written in 1913, was announced to be performed on western stages for the first time.[18][19][20]

A poster of "Arshin Mal Alan" at Femina theatre of Paris in 1925.

One of Hajibeyov's greatest legacies was bringing forward the idea of establishing a professional music school. Hence, the Baku Academy of Music (known then as the Azerbaijan State Conservatoire), was founded in 1920 and named after Hajibeyov after his death. The school has trained Azerbaijan's finest composers such as Gara Garayev, Fikrat Amirov, Jovdat Hajiyev, Soltan Hajibeyov, Tofig Guliyev, and Vagif Mustafazade. His statue sits in front of this grand building that is still devoted to the synthesizing Eastern and Western musical traditions.[21]

In 1931, Hajibeyov helped in establishing the Azeri Folk Instruments Orchestra affiliated with the Radio Committee. This orchestra performed European classical pieces, such as those by Mikhail Glinka, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Schubert, Georges Bizet and others. Hajibeyov thus was the first musician to adapt the note system to traditional Azerbaijani musical instruments.

In 1936, Hajibeyov assisted in the founding of the Azerbaijani State Choir within the Azerbaijan Philharmonic Society. One of the most serious problems he faced was the mono-voiced repertoire of Azerbaijani folk songs, which allowed harmonization to distort style of the song and, on occasion, even alter the melody line when it changed modes. Hajibeyov resolved this problem by using contrapuntal polyphony and unison-doubling rather than four-part singing in the problematic sections.

Hajibeyov devoted much energy to the idea of integrating woman's role and status into the male-dominated world. The concept of women's emancipation runs through many of his works, often in the form of comedy or satirization, as in the case when he makes fun of the process of selecting marriage partners, a process hindered by the fact that women were still wearing veils until the 1920s when the Soviet regime prohibited them.


“Leyli and Majnun”[edit]

The opera art was established art not only in Azerbaijan, but also in the entire Muslim East by means of Hacibeyov's opera "Leyli and Majnun" which premiered on 12 January 1908, at the theatre of Haji Zeynalabdin Taghiyev. Hajibeyov wrote with his brother Jeyhun Hajibeyli this libretto of the opera based on a poem of the same name written by Fuzuli. The first performance was made by actor and director Huseyn Arablinski. The band-master was the writer-dramatist Abdurrahim bey Hagverdiyev. Huseynqulu Sarabski was in the role of “Majnun” and Abdurrahim Farajov in the role of “Leyli”.In next performances, Hajibeyov himself and his close friend and colleague, composer Muslim Magomayev, performed as band-master.[22]

This role was acted for the first time by Huseyinqulu Sarablinski. Then, these people - Sidghi Ruhulla, Khanlar Hakhverdiev, Aliovsat Sadigov, Shirzad Huseynov, Gulagha Mammadov, Mais Salmanov, Gulu Asgerov, Bakir Hashimov, Ali Mehdiyev, Arif Babayev, Baba Mirzaev, Janali Akbarov, Safa Gahramanov, Alim Gasimov and Mansum Ibrahimov performed in a role of Majnun at the next performance.


“Koroghlu opera” premiered firstly on 30 April 1937, at the Azerbaijan Opera and Ballet Theatre. This is the first classical opera that based on the motives of heroic epic in Azerbaijan.

In this opera, Hajibeyov created arias, mass choral scenes, various ensembles, ballet numbers and recitatives.

In the next years of his life, he worked on "Firuza" opera.

Musical comedies[edit]

“Husband and wife”[edit]

The first musical comedy of Hajibeyov is “Husband and wife” which consists of three scenes. This is the first example of Azerbaijani musical comedy. The first premiere of it was in 1910. H.Sarabski and A.Aghdamski performed in the roles of Marjan and Minnat. Hajibeyov wrote the sketch of the comedy himself.

If Not That One, Then This One[edit]

After “Husband and wife” opera, he began to write the second operetta of him. The first premiere of it was at the theatre of Mailovs brothers in Baku in 1911. “Mən nə qədər qoca olsam da” song and “Uzundere” national folk music are sounded in this opera with some changes on it.

Later, this opera was translated into various languages, performed in Caucasian countries, Turkey, Bulgaria and other countries.

"Arshin Mal Alan"[edit]

The first feature film based on “Arshin Mal Alan” Musical comedy was shot in 1916. This film was the silent film.

For the next time it was screened at "Baku movie studio" in 1945 with some changes on it. The main role of the film belonged to Rashid Behbudov.

This comedy again was screened in Baku, in 1965. The director of the film was Tofiq Taghizade and Fikrat Amirov performed as a music redactor. It was translated into many languages such as English, German, Chinese, Arabic, Persian, Polish etc.


From 1919 to 1920 Hajibeyov served as editor-in-chief for the newspaper Azerbaijan, the main governmental media body of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan.

In 1927, Hajibeyov published Collection of Azerbaijani Folk Songs along with composer Muslim Magomayev. For the first time, more than 300 pieces of Azeri folk music were documented by notation. In 1945, he published the book entitled Principles of Azerbaijan Folk Music, which has been translated into several languages including English in 1985 devoted to the centenary of his birth.


In 2013, Google celebrated Hajibeyov's 128th Birthday with Google Doodle on its Azerbaijani version.[23][24]

Official honours[edit]

Commemorative stelae in Donaupark, Vienna.[25]

Hajibeyov was the creator of the first operas and operettas in the Orient.[26] In 1938, he was awarded with the title of People's Artist of the USSR. He was also honored with the Order of Lenin[27] and the Stalin Prize which he won twice, once in 1941 for the opera Koroghlu (1936), and the other time in 1946 for the 1945 film based on his opera Arshin Mal Alan.[28]

Monument to Uzeyir Hajibeyov, in Novi Sad, Serbia.

Hajibeyov was a professor at the Baku Academy of Music (of which he was also head in 1928–1929 and 1939–1948) and Active Member of the Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan. For the last 10 years of his life, he was Chairman of the Composers Union of Azerbaijan.[29][28]

Hajibeyov joined the Communist Party in 1938.[30] He served twice as a deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union, the highest legislative institution in the Union.[2][31]

Hajibeyov died of diabetes at the age of 63, and was buried at the Alley of Honor in Baku.[32][33]

On 18 September 1995, the 110th anniversary of Hajibeyov's birth has been celebrated. No one in the history of modern music in Azerbaijan is recognized for having done more to lay the foundation for Azerbaijani music as it exists today, especially with its unique synthesis of Eastern and Western traditional musical instruments and musical forms.[34]

In 2008, the National Bank of Azerbaijan minted a 100 manat gold commemorative coin dedicated to Hajibeyov's memory.[35]

In June 2011 President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and President of Serbia Tadic unveiled a monument of Hajibeyov on the Dunavski kej in Novi Sad, Serbia.[36]

On the occasion of the 130th birthday anniversary of the composer, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti proclaimed 18 September 2015 as the "Uzeyir Hajibeyli Memorial Day" in the City of Los Angeles and called on all residents to join this celebration.[37] Also U.S. Congressman Paul Gosar from Arizona extended a Congressional Record recognizing Hajibeyov's achievements.[38]

Uzeyir Music Day[edit]

18 September is celebrated as "Uzeyir Music Day" after national leader Heydar Aliyev's decree in 1995. Different events and celebrations are usually held on this day with participation of world-famous musicians.

Stage works[edit]



  1. ^ Azerbaijani: عزیر بگ عبدالحسین بگ اوغلی حاجی‌بگوف, Üzeyir bəy Əbdülhüseyn bəy oğlu Hacıbəyov; Russian: Узеир-бек Абдул-Гусейн-бек оглы Гаджибеков, romanizedUzeir-bek Abdul-Guseyn-bek ogly Gadzhibekov


  1. ^ a b Gabay, Yury (2001). "Hajibeyov [Gadzhibekov; Hajibekov], Uzeir". Grove Music Online. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.12195. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  2. ^ a b Matthew O'Brien (2004). Uzeyir Hajibeyov and his role in the development of musical life in Azerbaijan. Routledge. p. 211. ISBN 978-0-415-30219-7. Leyli and Majnun was not only the first opera by an Azeri composer, but also the Islamic world's first opera
  3. ^ McCagg, William O.; Silver, Brian D. (1979). Soviet Asian ethnic frontiers. Pergamon Press. ISBN 978-0-08-024637-6.
  4. ^ "The First Oriental Opera by Azerbaijani Composer (1908)". ATI.AZ. 22 November 2021. Retrieved 18 July 2022.
  5. ^ Abasova, L. V. et al. (eds.) (1992) Istoria azerbaijanskoi muziki Maarif, Baku, pp. 85-86, in Russian
  6. ^ Naroditskaya, Inna (2000) "Azerbaijanian Female Musicians: Women's Voices Defying and Defining the Culture" Ethnomusicology 44(2): pp. 234-256, p.242
  7. ^ Matthew O'Brien. (2004). Uzeir Hajibeyov and his role in the developement of musical life in Azerbaijan. Routledge. p. 209. ISBN 9780415302197.
  8. ^ "130th anniversary of Uzeyir Hajibeyov-V?DEO". azvision.az. 2015. Retrieved 21 December 2023.
  9. ^ "Caucasus conservatory". en.vestikavkaza.ru (in Russian). 9 May 2017. Retrieved 21 December 2023.
  10. ^ a b "Гаджибеков Узеир Абдул Гусейн-оглы" (in Russian). Биография.ру. Archived from the original on 29 July 2012. Retrieved 15 June 2019.
  11. ^ Uzeyir Hajibeyov Archived 10 May 2007 at the Wayback Machine. AzWorld.org.
  12. ^ Biography of Uzeyir Hajibeyov Archived 4 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine at Uzeirbey.aznet.org
  13. ^ "Alphabet Transitions: The Latin Script: A Chronology" Archived 3 April 2007 at the Wayback Machine Azerbaijan International, Vol. 5:2 (Summer 1997), pp. 22-24.
  14. ^ "Leyli and Majnun - 90th Jubilee: The Opera that Shaped the Music of a Nation" Archived 8 April 2007 at the Wayback Machine Azerbaijan International, Vol. 5:4 (Winter 1997), p. 25.
  15. ^ a b c "От "Лейли и Меджнун" до "Кёроглы"" (in Russian). Статья опубликована в газ. „Бакинский рабочий" от 16 марта 1938 года № 61, а также в сб. „Искусство азербайджанского народа", М.—Л., 1938 г. Archived from the original on 13 April 2013. Retrieved 18 June 2010.
  16. ^ "Composer Uzeyir Hajibeyov: 110 Jubilee" Archived 6 April 2007 at the Wayback Machine Azerbaijan International, Vol. 3:3 (Autumn 1995), pp. 76 ff.
  17. ^ "Why Uzeyir Hajibeyov wrote Koroghlu at Height of Stalin's Repressions" Archived 5 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine by Betty Blair, Azerbaijan International, Vol. 14:2 (Summer 2006), p. 61.
  18. ^ ""AtaHolding" sponsored performance of "Arshin mal alan" operetta in Vienna" (www.ataholding.az ed.). Archived from the original on 11 March 2016. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  19. ^ Вишневецкий Ф. "В Лос-Анджелесе с большим успехом прошел спектакль «Аршин мал алан»" (1news.az ed.). Archived from the original on 22 December 2014. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  20. ^ "Azerbaijani Musical "Arshin Mal Alan" Mesmerizes Los Angeles" (PR Newswire Association LLC ed.). 9 September 2013. Archived from the original on 13 July 2020. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  21. ^ "Bakı Musiqi Akademiyası, Üzeyir Hacıbəyov XX yüziliyin I yarısında dünya musiqi mədəniyyətində…". Archived from the original on 6 February 2014. Retrieved 3 February 2014.
  22. ^ "Leyli&Medjnun". leyli-mejnun.musigi-dunya.az. Archived from the original on 15 February 2018. Retrieved 19 February 2018.
  23. ^ "Uzeyir Hacibeyov's 128th Birthday (Azerbaijan)". www.google.com. Archived from the original on 26 September 2014. Retrieved 6 November 2014.
  24. ^ "Google создал "дудл" в честь Узеира Гаджибекова". www.anspress.com (in Russian). Archived from the original on 6 November 2014. Retrieved 6 November 2014.
  26. ^ Eight of Hajibeyov's librettos of operas and operettas in Azeri Latin and English translation Archived 1 April 2007 at the Wayback Machine at HAJIBEYOV.com
  27. ^ "ЛЕТОПИСЬ ЖИЗНИ И ТВОРЧЕСТВА УЗЕИРА ГАДЖИБЕКОВА". Электронная библиотека Узеира Гаджибекова. Archived from the original on 9 January 2011. Retrieved 18 June 2010.
  28. ^ a b "Портал "Культура Азербайджана"" (in Russian). Профессора Фарадж Караев, Чингиз Гусейнов,Рахман Бадалов, Ниязи Мехти; Марианна Высоцкая, Марк Верховский, Гурам Адишария, Изабелла Мигаль. Archived from the original on 27 December 2014. Retrieved 18 June 2010.
  29. ^ "ЛЕТОПИСЬ ЖИЗНИ И ТВОРЧЕСТВА УЗЕИРА ГАДЖИБЕКОВА". Электронная библиотека Узеира Гаджибекова. Archived from the original on 9 January 2011. Retrieved 18 June 2010.
  30. ^ "Гаджибеков Узеир Абдул Гусейн оглы" ("Hajibeyov, Uzeyir Abdul Hussein oglu"). Большая Советская Энциклопедия (The Great Soviet Encyclopedia). Third Edition. Ed. Alexander Prokhorov. Moscow: Soviet Encyclopedia, 1969-1978. http://dic.academic.ru/dic.nsf/bse/77018/%D0%93%D0%B0%D0%B4%D0%B6%D0%B8%D0%B1%D0%B5%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%B2 Archived 6 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine (in Russian)
  31. ^ McCagg, William O.; Silver., Brian D. (1979). Soviet Asian ethnic frontiers. Pergamon Press. ISBN 9780080246376.
  32. ^ "Üzeyir Hacıbəyovun həyat və yaradıcıllığı" (in Azerbaijani) (xanim.az ed.). Archived from the original on 25 September 2017. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  33. ^ "Üzeyir Hacıbəyovun həyat və yaradıcıllığı" (in Azerbaijani) (xanim.az ed.). Archived from the original on 25 September 2017. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  34. ^ Üzeyir Hacıbəyovun anadan olmasının 110 illik yubileyinin keçirilməsi haqqında Azərbaycan Respublikası Prezidentinin 1 sentyabr 1995-ci il tarixli Qərarı Archived 5 December 2010 at the Wayback Machineanl.az (in Azerbaijani)
  35. ^ Central Bank of Azerbaijan Archived 14 March 2010 at the Wayback Machine. Commemorative coins. Coins produced within 1992-2010 Archived 19 January 2010 at the Wayback Machine: Gold coin dedicated to the memory of Uzeyir Hajibeyov. – Retrieved on 25 February 2010.
  36. ^ "News - Serbia, Azerbaijan "moving toward strategic partnership"". B92. Archived from the original on 5 November 2012. Retrieved 20 February 2012.
  37. ^ "Los Angeles proclaims "Uzeyir Hajibeyli Day"". 18 September 2015. Archived from the original on 1 October 2015. Retrieved 30 September 2015.
  38. ^ "Congressional Record Extensions of Remarks Articles". Archived from the original on 1 October 2015. Retrieved 30 September 2015.

External links[edit]