Things to do in Baku

Azeri musicians Farhad Badalbeyli and Dmitry Yablonsky have been busy reviving the classical music scene in their native country.

Farhad Badalbeyli 311 (photo credit: .)
Farhad Badalbeyli 311
(photo credit: .)
‘I was lucky to study at the Moscow Conservatory when it probably was the best of its kind in the world, with Rostropovich, Richter, Oistrach and others teaching there,” says Azeri pianist Farhad Badalbeyli. Badalbeyli and his friend, cellist and conductor Dmitry Yablonsky, are speaking to The Jerusalem Post ahead of a series of performances in Israel later this week. The two appear with the Ra'anana Symphonette Orchestra in a program featuring both Western classics and the music of Azeri composers, as well as present a recital.
Badalbeyli, who is also the rector of the Baku Music Academy, feels privileged because, with the downfall of the Soviet Union, the connections between Moscow, the cultural metropolis, and its former republics was weakened, and the arts declined as a result. “During those tumultuous years, many artists emigrated to the West.” Badalbeyli recalls. “Yet the then president Geydar Aliev managed to bring stability to the country. He also supported the arts, and artists started to return to Baku. Today we have a jazz festival and a major classical festival, managed by Rostropovitch’s daughter, which next year hosts the Israel Philharmonic with Zubin Mehta.”
Badalbeyli continues to extol the virtues of Azerbaijan, which he says is “not only a beautiful country, but I was happy to learn that for the last 3,000 years there has no been a trace of anti-Semitism. Even today, you can find nice and neat synagogues in small villages far from Baku. And Baku itself has always been an international city, and the huge contribution of the Jewish community to its cultural life is remembered and highly appreciated.”
A SECOND classical music festival was inaugurated in Azerbaijan last summer by Badalbeyli and Yablonsky, who share a powerful friendship, both musically and personally.
“We met several years ago and for me it was a love at first sight,” smiles Yablonsky. “Farhad is an amazing human being and musician.”
The festival took place in a beautiful mountain resort not far from Baku, and Badalbeyli says it was a huge success.
“People from the provinces, who had not heard classical music for years, flocked to the concerts – the tickets were subsidized,” he explains.
Yablonsky, who also started his musical education in Moscow, emigrated with his mother to the US in 1977, and graduated from Yale University before moving to Europe. He now divides his time between his home in French Catalonia and the rest of the world. He’s fluent in several languages and confides with a smile that as a result he does not know where he really comes from.
Yet, he still spends much of his time in Azerbaijan, where, he says, hehas revealed “unfathomable treasures of first rate music from Azericomposers.”
One of the more prominent of these composers isGara Garayev, whose cello and violin concerto will soon be recorded byYablonsky, Badalbeyli and Britain’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra forthe Naxos label.
The Ra'ananaSymphonette, with Yablonsky conducting and Badalbeyli at the piano,performs Western and Azeri classics on March 24, 25 and 27. The twoalso present a recital March 23. For reservations: (09) 742-2861.