(In Memory of Kholmirza Azimov, Pedagogue and Composer. 1925-1992)

Kholmirza Fayzullaevich Azimov, composer and pedagogue

The true magnitude of a personality can only be known over time. As years go by, the name of Kholmirza Fayzullaevich Azimov, composer and pedagogue, becomes ever more significant for the development of the national school of composers and performers.

The process of a natural mix between country-specific and common-to-all mankind is always a complex one. It is truly productive only when tackled by an individual fully dedicated to his cause, and such was Kholmirza Azimov. He was born in Namangan in 1925, and his interest in music was manifest since childhood. At the age of eleven he entered a musical school under the Namangan vocational boarding-school, the class of a pianist Alexander Germanovich Engheld whose lessons, as Azimov recalled, made him fall in love with the instrument and built a foundation for his profession.

The World War II interrupted his studies. In 1946, having returned to his native town, Azimov became a student of a musical vocational school, and after graduating from it in 1949 was admitted to the piano department of the Tashkent State Conservatory, the class of Professor Nikolai Mikhailovich Yablonskiy, a prominent pedagogue and Honorary Artist of Uzbekistan. While student, Kholmirza Azimov started teaching in his own Alma Mater.

Having graduated in 1954, he was offered a teaching job at the piano department; he found it to be his true call and remained dedicated to it to the end of his days. In different years he held positions of a dean of by-correspondence (1961-1967) and internal (1967-1969) departments, and a pro-rector on academic affairs (1969-1971). Azimov was particularly productive as head of a piano department (1961-1967 and 1978-1987).

The piano department was organized in 1948, and Azimov started working there as early as in 1949 when he was still a first-grade student. Thus, he stood at its origin, together with its founders A. I. Podgorniy, O. Y. Grinberg, A. E. Solovyova et al, to become its leader twelve years later. His incumbent successor S. A. Zakirov, Professor Emeritus of the State Conservatory of Uzbekistan, recalls: «That was the heyday in the work of our team. Apart from teaching activities, we were very actively involved in concerts and academic/methodological work». Continuity of generations was given strong emphasis. Following Azimov’s initiative, every venerable and experienced pedagogue had to supervise a novice one, which facilitated professional development of the faculty.

Kholmirza Fayzullaevich liked it when his class was attended by one of the pedagogues. He introduced playing at sight, certainly taking student’s specialization into account. This was music written by composers of different styles, epochs and trends, and specific attention was given to music by Uzbek composers.

Kholmirza Fayzullaevich had a rather reserved personality, sparing in praise, which was therefore still more important for both student and pedagogue. Every examination he attended became a real test of mastery.

Teachers participated in class concerts which at that time were performed regularly on the stages of the Conservatory. Every year a departmental concert took place in its Grand Hall, first, encouraging every faculty member to stay in shape as a performer, and, secondly, producing great educational impact.

Azimov himself set the pace here, for many consecutive years performing in trio that also included Marat Yusupbekovich Rustambekov (violin) and Ignatiy Ignatyevich Shelpuk (cello). These wonderful musicians gave life to many pieces created by Uzbek composers, by performing them not only in the halls of the Conservatory, but also in many musical schools.

Kholmirza Fayzullaevich was, as they say, the right man for the job, be it administration, academic work or composition. Yet pedagogy always remained the most important domain for him. His class comprised students of different specializations, and the master exercised a case-by-case approach to each student, choosing the best options for his or her artistic development regardless of whether a student was a composer or folk musician, musicologist or vocalist… Only one thing he was intolerant to: a student’s formalistic attitude towards studying. His former student, now professor of composition and arrangement department, composer Nadim Kadyrovich Narkhojaev recalls: «Every class was a discovery of something new, a hard work that required ultimate concentration and dedication. In all these years while I was his student I only missed three classes, and even that was for good reason!» Azimov influenced the development of his students even as composers, exciting their interest towards creating miniature pieces for piano.

Having gone through an excellent piano schooling, he, being a remarkable performer himself, tried to equip his students with the skill of masterful piano playing, make them learn how to «sing» with a grand piano. Intuitively he perceived sound as a specific physical phenomenon that had density, saturation and even tangibility — something that can almost be felt.

Azimov had a complicated personality, uncompromising and often flat in his judgement. Negligent attitude towards studies on the part of a student was unacceptable to him. «You better change your profession. Music is no place for you to be in. It’s a crime that government is spending money on you», he could say to a lazy-bones. But for the students who lived and breathed music he spared neither time, nor energy, and could work hours at length. And he could inspire a student so much, skilfully prompting him towards a solution to a particular performing objective that this artistic fervour and willingness to achieve a desired result unfailingly brought success.

Among his many students are those who are now the pride of musical art of Uzbekistan. This scintillating cohort includes names such as: Rustam Abdullaev, merited artist, Laureate of the State Award of Uzbekistan and Chair of the Composers’ Union; Nadim Narkhojaev, merited promoter of culture of Uzbekistan; merited artist Professor Ravshan Yunusov; associate professors Yulduz Nasyrova, Zakiya Mirkhaidarova and Khalida Gafurbekova.

Azimov’s art as composer is yet another dimension of this gifted individual. With no specific training but having an urgent desire to write music, for many years he was working independently, studying composition technique of authors of kindred spirit and seeking advice of the most prominent Uzbek composer G. A. Moushel. Although his compositions include vocal pieces, pieces for cello and violin, renditions of Uzbek traditional tunes and pieces for the orchestra of traditional Uzbek instruments, the largest portion of his composition heritage is constituted by piano pieces. Piano players eagerly perform his vivid and romantic works such as the Ballad, the Poem, the Rhapsody, the Nocturne, the Slave-woman, etc.

A special place among all his compositions belongs to Fortepiano Darsligi [Piano Guide] — a unique teaching aid where for the first time the training course was built around Uzbek material. It was first published in 1971, and till the end of his days Azimov was complementing it with new material. Ten years ago, in 1998, to honour the memory of the composer and his teacher, Professor Yunusov published the second edition of the Piano Guide prepared by Azimov, and noted in the foreword that the book helps comprehensive development of a piano playing skill and also kindles interest towards Uzbek music worldwide.

Talking about Azimov as composer, one cannot agree more with D. H. Daniyar-Khojaeva, Professor of the Specialist Piano Department who observed that Kholmirza Azimov’s art as pianist and composer is closely connected with Uzbek folklore with its diversity of genres, melodies and usuls, in terms of its full-scale forms and concealed programmatic aspect.

Azimov who worked with both small (prelude, miniature) and large (poem, rhapsody, ballad) musical forms always found support in the traditions of romantic piano school, bringing into his music characteristic national colouring.

Despite the fact that scholars have already researched the work of Kholmirza Azimov, reviewing selected pieces, a comprehensive analysis of his heritage and the discovery of the peculiarity of his style are still to be delivered.

Inna Abdullaeva