GARA GARAYEV (1918 – 1982), one of the most eminent and leading composers of Azerbaijan, was born on February 5, 1918, in Baku into the family of a medical doctor, pediatrician, Abulfaz Garayev (1885 – 1952) and Sona Garayeva (1898-1971), a graduate of the Baku branch of the Imperial Russian Music Society School.
Between 1933-1938, Gara Garayev studied composition and folk music at the Azerbaijan State Conservatory. In 1938, he continued his studies in the Moscow Conservatory, named after P. I. Tchaikovsky, where he initially studied composition with A. Alexandrov and then later in 1943 with legendary Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975). This fortunate union between D. Shostakovich and G. Garayev turned into a lifelong friendship, collaboration, and mentorship.
As the author of 110 oeuvres, Garayev embraced a vast number of genres. He wrote ballets, including Seven Beauties (1952) and Path of Thunder (1957); an opera Motherland (co-authored with J. Hajiyev (1945); three symphonies (1943, 1946, 1964); a symphonic poem, Leyli and Majnun (1947); Albanian Rhapsody (1952); Don Quixote Symphonic Engravings (1960); 24 Preludes for Piano (1951-1963); a Violin Concerto (1967); incidental film music, Fires of Baku (1951), The Conqueror of the Sea (1965), and many other works.
Ultimately, Garayev emerged as a groundbreaking twentieth century modern composer, whose works made an appearance in many concert halls of the world, including countries of the former Soviet Union, Europe and the United States. During the cold war in June of 1961, Gara Garayev and Tikhon Khrennikov were the only two Soviet composers attending the first International Music Festival at the University of California in Los Angeles. Among other invitees were Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky. Garayev’s Suite from the Path of Thunder ballet was performed under the baton of twelve-time Academy Award nominee and founder of the LA festival Franz Waxman.
Upon his return from Moscow to Baku, Garayev continued to write music zealously and conduct. He also became a dedicated teacher, pushing the boundaries of the Azerbaijani compositional school towards new and modern horizons. Between 1949-1953, Garayev served as the Rector of the Azerbaijan Conservatory and from 1965-1982, as Chairman of the Union of Azerbaijan Composers, as well as Secretary of the Union of USSR Composers.
From folk music to twelve-tone technique, to jazz, the music of Garayev presents it all. The distinct architecture of Garayev works, the beauty of his melodies, and the innovative harmonic and orchestral language of his music are striking. In addition, the unforgettable pallet and richness of his music touches a wide spectrum of human emotions, as his works express love and struggle, joy and sadness, humor and drama, dreaming and reality. Garayev moved with time, he felt the pulse, inspired his listeners, and rose to the top.
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