'Khojaly 613' astounds an appreciative international academic audience

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A remarkable concert of Azerbaijani, Turkish and French classical music has taken place at the University of Rouen, sponsored by the French office of The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS). This culminated with a performance of 'Khojaly 613', composed by PIerre Thilloy and dedicated to the memory of the 613 victims of the Khojaly Massacre in 1992.

Sabina Rakcheyeva and the Magma String Quartet.

The tone poem 'Khojaly 613' captured the horror of the Khojaly Massacre

All delegates are aware of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the Khojaly Massacre. They understand the purpose of my music.

On the evening of 3 September, around 200 international delegates at the 17th International Conference on Turkish Linguistics (ICTL), hosted at the University of Rouen in France, had a rare treat to hear a concert of Azerbaijani, Turkish and French classical music, sponsored by the French office of The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS). This took place in the Amphithéâtre Philippe Protais, and was given by Azerbaijani violinist Sabina Rakcheyeva, the first Azerbaijani graduate from the Juilliard School in New York and Cultural Advisor to TEAS, alongside French clarinettist Annelise Clément and the Magma String Quartet, also from France.

The concert was the brainchild of French composer Pierre Thilloy, who explained: “Performing and listening to this music helps us understand elements of another culture, yet demonstrates our common humanity. For example, the concert includes my own tribute to Handel, and contemporary Turkish composer Hasan Hüseyin Yilmaz’s homage to Mozart, alongside Gara Garayev’s 'String Quartet No.2' and my piece 'Khojaly 613', which incorporates Azerbaijani folksongs. I wanted to show the universality of music, which transcends linguistic and cultural barriers. The selection demonstrates that Turkish and Azerbaijani composers can adopt western musical idioms, using the same musical language as a French composer. Regardless of our cultural background, we can all be touched with this music. This is not a language for the brain – it is for the soul.”

The concert culminated with the chamber music arrangement of 'Khojaly 613' by Pierre Thilloy, a TEAS commission. This was composed in memory of the 613 civilian men, women and children who were the victims of the Khojaly Massacre on 26 February 1992, the worst single atrocity perpetrated by invading Armenian forces during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The orchestral version of this evocative work – premiered in Paris on the anniversary of the massacre – was nominated last year for the prestigious Victoires de la Musique Classique award. In Rouen, the work was performed reverently, with the clarinettist initially performing in the wings of the stage, representing the plaintive cry of a human voice.

Pierre explained the reason for its inclusion in the programme: “I felt it was very important to perform this piece away from the anniversary of the Khojaly Massacre. It was particularly appropriate to play it this evening, as the audience is here for a conference on Turkish linguistics. All delegates are aware of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the Khojaly Massacre. They understand the purpose of my music.”

The concert began with another of Pierre Thilloy’s works entitled 'Largo – Lamento funebre'. The composer explained: “My point of departure was a quotation from Handel’s opera 'Giulio Cesare', where a mother is distressed about her son who is going to his death, perhaps in war. This has a universal meaning, and can be related to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”

The 'String Quartet No. 2' by leading Azerbaijani composer Gara Garayev (1918–82) was written in 1946. Pierre stated: “Garayev was the student of Shostakovich and this is amazing music. It uses western notation, yet cleverly incorporates Azerbaijani mugham modes and represents Azerbaijani culture in a very effective way. Throughout, Garayev is making reference to his revulsion over the cataclysmic losses of World War II.”

Pierre has had a longstanding connection with Azerbaijan, having been fascinated by the modalities found in Azerbaijani mugham music. He has featured in the documentary 'Pierre Thilloy, la Montagne de Feu', which was broadcast on the France 2 and Mezzo channels. He is also the founder and organiser of the Syam Festival in Eastern France which, this year, incorporated a vast range of Azerbaijani classical, jazz and mugham music. To see a film on the background and significance of 'Khojaly 613', shot at the Syam Festival, go to http://bit.ly/aproposKhojaly613. For a full performance of the work, visit http://bit.ly/khojaly613.

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