Jeyla Seyidova: "It's very important to bring Azerbaijani music to foreign audience"
Jeyla Seyidova's music destiny was predetermined from her birth. Her father is People’s Artist of Azerbaijan Uran Seyidov, violinist, concertmaster of the Azerbaijan State Chamber Orchestra, her mother is Honored Artist of Azerbaijan Samira Ashumova, pianist, professor of the Baku Academy of Music, her elder brother Anar is a winner of republican and international violin competitions and festivals, a presidential scholar, graduate of Moscow conservatory. Jeyla Seyidova, the first violinist of the Azerbaijan State String Quartet, who, like her brother, was included in the 'Golden Book of Azerbaijan's young talents', shared her vision of classical music with Vestnik Kavkaza.
- About 7-8 years ago they were speaking about you being a young talent, and today you are a famous violinist, winner of competitions, a famous person in the music world. It seems that gifted musicians grow up very quickly, because they play complex compositions and experience adult emotions as kids. In your childhood, did you feel different from others? After all, not all violinists manage to reach such heights.
- It's not just about a talent, luck and ambitions also play a role. Since childhood, I set myself certain goals. Every time I entered Bulbul school, saw portraits of our musicians and thought that I wanted to be near them. This needed practice, playing at concerts. Already after my first concert, I realized that it's not just a pleasure for me, it also gives me tremendous emotions and energy for the audience.
At first, of course, I did not understand that I was different from others. Understanding came when my teacher Fatima Idiatullina asked me to learn a difficult piece that usually is not performed in childhood - Caprice Staccato by Henryk Wieniawski. I came home and started to practice this piece, my brother told me: "You play staccato with amazing ease!” He brought my parents to listen to me playing it. Then everyone was surprised with my staccato stroke [A stroke is a specific movement of the bow to achieve a desirable sound for the embodiment of artistic conception - VK].
It turned out that I have this natural stroke. Usually either you have it or you don't. Such a stroke can be found in virtuoso works by Sarasate, Wieniawski, Paganini. Kids told me then: "You just have a comfortable bow. Try another!" I played with another bow - and still I had it. They told me: "Play three times slower, we will look at your hands." I played. They tried all the options to repeat this stroke, but no one did it. By the way, I haven't found one single person with this stroke in Moscow...
As a child I liked to play melodious, sad music. I feel empathy for music works like a grown-up. I remember touring in Paris, in the hall of UNESCO, accompanied by a youth symphony orchestra. I was 12 years old and I performed the theme music by John Williams from 'Schindler's List'. Shortly before, my dad watched this movie at home, and I saw a small piece, just three minutes. When I played a work by John Williams, I had flashbacks of those scenes.
In general, when I'm on stage I never see what is happening around me, I'm somewhere else. For each work I have my own unique image. I see pictures from life or, for example, a painting that I saw in a museum - it all came up from my mind.
- You were born in a family of musicians. A few years ago, scientists conducted a study among violinists, trying to find the answer to the question of why not everyone reaches the heights they wanted. It turned out that out of ten great violinists only one achieves outstanding results. The researchers concluded that the main key to success is being born in a family of musicians.
- Of course. From the first days of my life I heard music in every room. When my brother grew up, he immediately started to take violin lessons, and my mother wanted me to start playing the piano. However, when I was 6, I have already known that I want to play exactly the violin. At home I heard sounds of both a piano and a violin. And I liked the violin better. When I was four I took it in my hands and imagined me playing this instrument.
- An outstanding teacher and violinist Peter Stolyarsky said that having a talented mother sometimes means more than being a talented child. What was your musical education at home - were you forced or persuaded to practice, controlled or gently directed?
- In our family, children were not brought up rudely, they never raised their hands to a child. I would not forgive such an attitude. My parents did not persuade me, but of course there was certain control. Having studied at school with a teacher, I continued classes with my dad at home in the evening. It's very important to teach a kid proper hand position. If hands are put incorrectly, then it will be difficult to correct it later. I perfectly understood my duties: I woke up, had breakfast and went practice, and only after it I could have a rest. I started to especially like it after the first concert, when I realized that performing on stage is for me.
- When did you realize that you want to devote your life to music? They say the first trip to the opera shocked Tchaikovsky and he realized his vocation. And what's your story?
- I was eight years old, and I played 'The March of the Tin Soldiers' on the stage of the Baku State Philharmonic Society, accompanied by a chamber orchestra. I dreamed that I would stand in a magnificent pink dress, lights in the hall would be turned off, with only me being in a pink spotlight. When it came true, I really liked it and remembered it forever.
- You are the representative of two music schools at once - Azerbaijani and Russian: you graduated from the Baku Academy of Music and the Tchaikovsky Conservatory. What do you have from Azerbaijani teachers, from Azerbaijani education and what from Russia?
- In Baku, I was lucky to have a teacher who managed to teach me the right position, so when I arrived in Moscow, I didn’t have to do anything with it. In Moscow, I was taught austerity, put into some kind of bounds. I came as a person with a free manner of performance: I played like I felt. But at the conservatory I had a terrific teacher Eduard Davidovich Grach, People's Artist of the USSR. Being in his class was a dream of any young violinist. He is a very difficult person, it is not easy to win his respect and love. But Eduard Davidovich and his wife, who was my accompanist, treated me like their granddaughter. They told me later: "We had a lot of students, but you is like a family for us."
The teacher did not try to change my ideas, he said that each musician is an individual. But some moments should be performed according to his rules - this is fingering, strokes, his notes. Even if I tried to change my finger, I asked: "Can I take the third one instead of the second?", He replied: "No. When you learn this piece, it will be convenient for you exactly as I said."
Or I asked: "Can I take this piece for an exam?" Eduard Davidovich replied: "You can, but I think it would be better if you choose another piece." Only later I realized that he knew me better than I did. He picked up a specific repertoire for each student. Three minutes was enough for him to understand what a violinist is capable of. For the last state exam, he recommended Paganini’s Moses, performed on one string. I told him that I could not do it. But Eduard Davidovich said: "Try it, play, then we will decide together." As a result, it was a success at the state exam - I realized that it was very convenient and easy for me.
- Eduard Grach created a wonderful Moscovia Chamber Orchestra, where he invited only his students, graduates. Why didn't you stay there?
- I played in this ensemble, but then I was tired of orchestras, because I had been playing with them since the age of seven, starting with the Teymur Goychayev children's chamber orchestra.
When I arrived in Moscow to enter the fourth year, I learned that none of the exams I passed in Baku would be counted, and I need to pass them again. It was hard, there was no time for it. Only in the second year of my studies at the Conservatory, I started playing at the Moscovia - we performed in Dubna, Ivanovo, at the at the Moscow Conservatory Great Hall. I learned a lot in this orchestra, because only strong musicians were there - soloists, laureates of international competitions. When you work in good team, play high-quality music, your ear for music don’t get spoiled as in orchestras, where your performance gets worse, because you practically don’t hear yourself and lose a purity of intonations. And we had a chamber line-up, where everyone were great. It also stimulated me to play better.
- What do you play with the greatest pleasure?
- Hora Staccato by Grigoras Dinicu - this is virtuosity, this is a stroke.
- Do you improvise? Does it happen, for example, that something unexpected or not rehearsed is born right on stage?
- Not. I'm afraid to improvise on stage. At home it happens. Sometimes my dad asks me: "What are you doing now? Where is it from?" I answer: "I do not know. This is from above." I do not write anything down. I played it once and the music is gone. I have not come to this yet, probably.
- Have you considered other professions than a musician?
- Yes. Maybe it will seem ridiculous, but for some reason I see myself in military uniform. Now, of course, it's too late to think about it. And from the creative professions - TV presenter.
- Where do you like perform the most?
- I played in many halls. I remember the Column Hall in Moscow, where I was fortunate enough to perform at the age of 13; It is also an honor for the musician to perform at the Conservatory Great Hall, where great people played. The acoustics of this hall puts you to a special state. I was lucky to perform on that stage three times. At the graduation ceremony, I played Hora Staccato there - then I was the only violinist from the whole course.
The Moscow Philharmonic is also great. I once almost missed my exit there - I was so nervous. My entry was already announced, and I am standing backstage, thinking: "When is my way entry." Then the girl from the orchestra turns to me: "Jeyla, go to the stage!" I dropped the jacket, ran out of the wrong exit. Eduard Davidovich was conducting, and said right from the stage: "Dancers go out from there!"
And my favorite stage is the Baku Philharmonic. This beautiful hall is very convenient. The Heydar Aliyev Center also has a very good stage.
- All violinists dream about playing some historical violin. Although very often you can hear from eminent violinists that the person who plays the violin is important, and not the violin itself. Which violin would you like to play?
- I would like to try Guarneri and Stradivari. I want to understand why the current masters cannot solve the mystery of these violins - the secrets of glue, wood. So far I have not had such an opportunity, but I love my instrument and always say that it is the best. A good musician can play an ordinary violin, because a touch to the instrument is more important.
- Should there be a connection between the artist and the instrument?
- Of course. I feel sorry for the pianists, who every time use a new instrument. Pianists are always jealous of violinists: "You are always have your violin, both on tour and in hotels." Although you get used to the bow in one day as well. It takes time.
- How often do new pieces appear in your repertoire?
- I pick up the repertoire depending on the concept of the concert, selecting a program that the public may like, appreciate. They come to get good emotions, not to sit there and think: "When will it end?" I pick up something spectacular, melodic, usually a small piece. I play completely different music of Azerbaijani and European composers, trying to find something interesting. Sometimes they ask me: "What was it? Can I take your notes?" I answer: "Now everything is on the Internet, you just need to take time to find something interesting." I am always looking for beautiful music, usually accompanied by a piano. I change my repertoire quite often.
- Today they say that interest in classical music is falling. How do you feel about the new generation of violinists, like David Garrett, Vanessa Mae, Edvin Marton.
- Very well. They make a classic crossover. This is very good, very interesting. They all have a great school. David Garrett is a terrific violinist, he had excellent teachers. He is a super violinist who played everything he could and made it even more interesting. This effect, this fire, this virtuosity! He plays complex music, interfering it with some rhythms. I would also like to do it, but it is very difficult.
- Does the violin fit any musical genre?
- Yes. Even rock. The violin is multifaceted, you can make different sounds with it - from flute to vocal, lead the line, as vocalists do. Unfortunately, today classical music goes into the background. Classical musicians, trying to attract people, make different experiments, even with clothes and image. But there is nothing higher than classical music!
I listen to any music except rock. However, when there's a new good song, you listen to it several times and get bored. But the classic remains forever. People should love it, teach their children to it, instead of giving them iPads with ridiculous games.
- After the 12-year-old Yehudi Menuhin played three concerts in Berlin, Albert Einstein exclaimed: "Now I know there is God in heaven!" Einstein loved the violin and even came to the Academy of Sciences with his instrument. Do you agree that classics forms a cultural environment?
- Of course. But one should bring it up since childhood. My mother always took me to concerts, performances, to Russian drama, to the opera. If I had not seen this since childhood, now I would not be so interested. Today, sometimes you invite a person to the philharmonic, and he asks: "Where is it?"
Classical music does not teach you bad. Listening to music a person enters a special state where there is no dirt. Listening to it, you think out the words yourself, picture gentle images. Classic directs you to the right track.
- In one of the interviews you said that you dream of performing a concert program not just playing the violin, but also the piano and even sing. What stage are these plans at?
- It's in the process. Everything has its time. I hope, soon I will realize the dream which I had since childhood. There will be no piano. Only vocals and violin. The piano era has ended a long time ago for me - I have never really seen myself behind this instrument.
- But I heard you playing In the style of Bach by Kara Karaev from A Man Drops Anchor, and it was amazing ...
- I just love this piece. I asked my mother to help me with it, but she said: "Do not disgrace me!" Then I prepared it myself, and after an audition in the Great Hall in Baku, I was invited to play at a concert. Then my mother did not enter the hall, standing in the doorway. This is good, otherwise I would not have played a single note of excitement.
When I studied in Moscow, I also had to play on the piano exams and accompany some instrument. It was unusual for me - usually people accompany me, and here I have to sit at the piano and accompany violinists. But I had to do it.
I had to practice the piano at night. When I came to the repetition room, at the conservatory there was a queue for classes from 11 pm. There is a cafe under the conservatory, and, standing in line, I looked at the people sitting there, and thought to myself: "It's fine, my day will come, I will also sit there and look at this line." I was so angry, I realized that it would be better to devote more time to the violin than the piano, but still the piano is an important instrument.
For me, besides the violin, there is an instrument, the timbre and sound of which makes me want to cry. This is a balaban. I bought a balaban, I wanted to learn how to play on it, but it didn't work out. Not a single sound came out of me.
- You often take part in concerts prepared by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation in different countries, you participated in the Days of Azerbaijan in the United States, Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland. Does the perception of Azerbaijani culture abroad change after such events?
- Of course. It is very important to bring our music to a foreign audience. We always play at these concerts the most beautiful works of Azerbaijani composers, and all concerts are a great success. There was no such concert when the audience were not on their feet in the end. It is very nice, but very difficult. After all, they hear you for the first time, and hear the music you play also for the first time. Listening to Azerbaijani music played on a violin is not easy. But after each concert, people always come to me and invite me to return here. We are always very well received.
- They say in order to be a good musician, it is not enough just to be a musician, one must also live a talented and bright life. Do you agree?
- One should live, enjoying every moment, what you do, even ordinary things. Seeing beauty is also a kind of talent. I think I live finely, because I share positive emotions with people, and if I don’t feel good, I try to keep the negative in myself, not to spoil people's mood. Every day I try to give people positive emotions and get emotions doing something with joy. If I know that I'm bad at something, I simply will not do it. Probably, music is my only talent. But my mom says that cooking as well. I cook rarely, but aptly!