Songs Without Words: Arranging Popular Classics of Azerbaijan for Violin and Guitar | Blogs



“The same words never mean the same things to different people. Only the song can say the same thing and elicit the same feelings in one person as in another – a feeling which, however, cannot be expressed in the same words “- Felix Mendelssohn, 1842

What Mendelssohn achieved in one of his most significant contributions to solo piano literature, the Lieder ohne Worte, or ‘Songs without Words’ was music in its simplest and purest form, conveying its own expressive meaning, but without verbal connotation. Some of these songs have found their way into the violin repertoire through various transcriptions and arrangements for violin and piano by Friedrich Hermann, Émile Sauret and Josef Gingold. The virtuoso details and technical embellishments of these arrangements have been a source of inspiration to deepen the arrangement of original songs from a different period, country, culture and style.

In an effort to further explore and contribute to the repertoire of the violin and classical guitar duo, my colleague and guitarist Stanislav Hvartchilkov and I set out on a trip to organize a selection of popular 20th century song classics to ‘Azerbaijan. We turned to one of the most famous film composers in the country – Tofig Guliyev, who wrote the scores for more than 40 Azerbaijani films from 1941, many of which achieved considerable popularity across the Union of the society. The guitar, omnipresent in many styles of music and cultures, made it the ideal partner of the duo for this project.

When transcribing and arranging the vocal repertoire for the combination of violin and classical guitar, one is faced with a variety of interesting challenges, opening up a multitude of timbral, textural, virtuoso and expressive opportunities available for the instruments. . Breath control, phrasing, articulation, specific choice of portamenti-guided fingerings and, more importantly, dynamic contrast were a few policy statements I had in mind while working on the violin part of these arrangements. With the lack of lyrics, I had to be a little more creative in re-appearing the verse and chorus sections in some songs, adding subtle variations (double stops, chords, pizzicati and harmonics). These transcriptions and arrangements are geared, initially, towards our own needs as musicians, but we hope that their presentation in this format may arouse interest and lead to other projects in the same vein.

Digitally released on August 6, 2021 by First Hand Records, “Dreams” is an album by violinist Nazrin Rashidova and guitarist Stanislav Hvartchilkov – featuring a collection of classics of popular 20th-century Azerbaijani song by Tofig Guliyev, Gara Garayev and Rauf Hajiyev. Merging Western traditions, Azerbaijani folk music and American jazz, the popular and classical Eastern and Western themes and approaches of these new transcriptions and arrangements aim to perfectly capture the rich harmonies, lyricism and nostalgic intensity of the songs, while bringing out a virtuoso dialogue between violin and guitar.

Listen to “Dreams” here

To read: Arrangements Carmen Suites by Bizet for violin and guitar

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