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Magical and Oriental: Music of Franghiz Ali-Zadeh

The past summer months were full of premiere performances of new works of the Azerbaijani composer. On 20 June 2004 in Bern-Muri, "Schschtar" for 14 strings received its premiere by the Camerata Bern under the direction of Christine Busch. "This work is a large variation cycle in the Mugam mode 'Schschtar,' the most flexible and versatile Mugam, in which tender, lyrical moods of love combine with the highest drama and deep sadness," explains Ali-Zadeh. The work also exists in a version for eight cellos commissioned by Ivan Monighetti and in its original form for 12 celli, originally commissioned by the 12 cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic.

Just seven days later, on 27 June 2004, the "Atlas" Ensemble performed the premiere of Ali-Zadeh's work "Zikr" in Amsterdam. The composer says: "Zikr means memory or memorial in the original Farsi. In the ritual of the Sufis (Islamic mysticists) several verses from poems or the Koran were sung to musical accompaniment like holy incantations. By repeating them with the greatest concentration of their emotions and thoughts, the Sufis arrived at secret and godly truth. In the piece for the "Atlas" Ensemble, a text by the medieval Sufi poet Imadeddin Nasimi (1360-1417) is used. The poet expresses the superiority of intuition and inner enlightenment over rational reason in this text."

Ali-Zadeh's Piano Trio "Impromptus" was performed for the first time at the Irish Bantry House on 29 June 2004. This work is a cycle of seven movements in which three movements written for the complete trio ensemble, different in their essences, form the main core. The original outer movements Prelude and Postlude are written for prepared piano. The idea centres round Azerbaijani dances in broken rhythms which are more or less reminiscent of infernal dances. There are two virtuoso cadenzas for violin and violoncello inserted between the three impromptus. These two movements each have a transitional function for the emotionally different impromptus. The sum total of the tonic notes of the seven movements corresponds to the scale degrees of a Mugam mode.

Upcoming performances for next year include a String Quartet (Minguet Quartet) on 19 May 2005 in Amsterdam and a Work for Piano Quintet and Violoncello commissioned by the Bavarian State Opera in Munich. The world premiere will take place in the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich.