Khabibulla Rakhimov: "The Seasons of Tashkent"

Issue #1 • 1213

A four-part cycle “The Seasons of Tashkent” for a grand orchestra of traditional instruments was written by Khabibulla Rakhimov in 2009 and dedicated to the 2200th anniversary of the city. The piece was first performed on the 10th of December 2009 at the “Toshkent – guzal diyorimsan” concert in the Grand Hall of the State Conservatory of Uzbekistan given by the student orchestra of traditional instruments conducted by Firuza Abdurakhimova, the Merited Worker of Arts of Uzbekistan. In this composition its author tried to “play around” the well-known and very popular theme in musical art – one may recall the works of Vivaldi, Chaikovskiy, Heidn, Piazzola, Gavrilin, Yanov-Yanovskiy, Bafoev and other composers.

Turning to the theme of the seasons in the urban environment, Rakhimov has not just reflected the intense rhythm and sounds of the big city. He poeticises city life, and this poeticism can already be seen in the subtitles: “Toshkentda qish. Qorburon” (“Winter in Tashkent. Snowstorm”), “Bahor tongi” (“The Spring Morning”), “Yoz. Favvoralar raqsi” (“Summer. The Fountain Dance”), and “Kuz. Hosil bairami” (“Autumn. The Harvest Festival”); they largely determine the imagery, dramaturgy and stylistics of the piece. One can also discern the features of urbanism – the 20th century trend in art whose representatives asserted the idea of a leading and, definitely, positive role of cities in modern-day civilization. “Contemporary urbanization in the social aspect presents a broad propagation of lifestyle features typical of large cities. A big city in urbanism is a “benchmark city”, or a kind of standard – and not only in material culture, but also in socio-psychological communication and its forms” (1, p. 10).

Due to social considerations, the ideas of urbanism were widespread throughout the entire 20th century, and if at the early stages of its formation urbanism aspired to implement noise effects in music (as vividly exemplified by the “Symphony of Sirens” (1922-1923) by A. Avramov who tried to reproduce urban sounds using the most powerful means of sound and noise), today, we believe, it is more broadly understood. In this big time-span the very understanding of urbanism has been enriched with new facets of reflecting city life in art. Already on the verge of the 20th and the 21st centuries it makes sense to interpret the term “urbanism” as a new trend in the imagery content of contemporary art, regardless of whether it is an eastern or western city that is presented. In Rakhimov’s cycle this is a modern eastern megapolis, therefore, the content of its parts should be perceived as a manifestation of love of an urban resident for his habitat. The sound environment of the megapolis is implemented in music not only as sound and noise effects. Rakhimov aspires at giving it some artistic insight. Vivid pictures of the city life are structured boldly, clearly and constructively. The composer compiles the cycle of contrasted musical images – each in a stream connecting traditions and contemporary means of expression. It is symbolic that the final part contains quotations from the two classical (maqom) melodies: “Toshkent Iroghi” and “Toshkent Ufori”.

Winter Part One called “Winter in Tashkent. Snowstorm” (Allegro, e-moll) is a vivid sound picture the structural parameters of which are outlined by a concentric form A B C B1 A1. Static and at the same time capacious form is achieved by its relief segmentation, while the episodes are “seamlessly” connected and flow one from another. The way the story unfolds in the first Episode A imitates a snow storm, which the composer pictures on the basis of his visual impressions. Direct associations with raging elements are triggered by glissando “splashes” of the orchestra voices rushing up and down, amplified by wave-like dynamic sonority. The sound of the whistling wind spans across a vast phonation expanse and almost dramatically expresses the fullness of emotional experience. Episode B is marked with the appearance of a supple melodic line of chang, konun and rubab, intensified by clear accentuation saturated with inner drama. The intonation kernel here is a staged motion confined within minor third, which develops in variations, with gradually increasing density of its texture. Culmination rise is cut by stopping at a prolonged tremolo accompanied by an abrupt dynamic abatement.

The central Episode C suggests that listeners look at the musical imagery from another angle. The composer himself associates this episode with whirling snowflakes. “Figured”, somewhat angular and chromatically “thorny” tunes of chang and konun on pizzicato, hovering freely in space, win over the listener by their amazing flow. Translucent colouring and refined sound communicate the mood of tender romanticism. The snowflakes, as if highlighted by city street lamps, whirl in silvery shine, carried by a light wind in different directions – sometimes up, sometimes down (octave leaps). High register creates an airy sound for the colour-pictorial theme, and interspersed bells give it a fairy-tale flavour. In this solo episode everything seems to freeze and become motionless. The sudden “intrusion” of episode B1 functions as the commencement of a mirror reprise, and, semantically, the continuation of the snowstorm. Vivid juxtaposition of melody, texture and dynamics is accompanied by the return of a whirling movement and suspense development. The A1 episode brings the composition in balance. On the whole, the re-narration of the snowstorm episode with the sound of the whistling wind serves as a kind of a framework for the entire musical picture. Thus, in this part the composer comes close to pictorial sound, resorting to illustrative detail and demonstrating the wide range of expressive mans of the orchestra.

Spring Part Two, “The Spring Morning” (Allegro moderato, g-moll), takes one into the world of pantheistic glorification of awakening nature. However paradoxical, the urban environment is this part of the cycle is presented in the spirit of pastoral landscape that is very popular in art and particularly in music. The contemplation of surrounding urban landscape is complemented with the record of visual impressions. Spring-time morning in a big city is the time when the music of nature sounds vividly and clearly – the rustling of leaves, bird songs, and the rolling thunder. All these spring-time attributes constitute the imagery dimension of the second part of the cycle, which is structurally shaped as a tripartite reprise composition.

The picture opens with bird twitter. In keeping with the author’s concoction, this is a sketch of a rookery. Intricate overflows, melancholic trills, and flute-like whistling of wind instruments that are fist heard from afar, gradually bring the listener closer to the semantic centre of the musical picture. Stereophonic effects in timber juxtaposition give depth to the spatial presentation. Swaying background of gijaks reproduces the rustle of foliage. The middle part is perceived as a lyrical word from the author. Melodious, as if with “talking” intonations that intersperse the entire fabric, it is akin to poetic expression. Pictorial solo is assigned to gijaks and is based on traditional Uzbek intonation material. The theme that originates from songs develops in a linear way. Wide-breathing melodic phrases feature sophisticated rhythms and intricate melismata. Improvisational-flowing movement gradually becomes overgrown with accompanying voices of new orchestral timbers. Melodically, all these voices are derivatives from the main thematic core. A vivid sound-picture stroke is the imitation of a cuckoo, the presence of which, along with the bird songs, makes one think about similarity of imagery between Part Two and “Spring” and “Summer” concerts from Antonio Vivaldi “The Seasons” and a fresco called “Gullar tarovati”, which is one of the four frescos in “The Seasons” by Mustafo Bafoev.

Expressive dialogues and imitations are accompanied by an emotional and dynamic crescendo that breaks off the rolls of spring thunder – ad libitum of a percussion group. As known, thunderstorm is one of the favourite subjects in sound presentation, but in this instance this is again a direct image echoing Vivaldi’s concerts (the imagery link to the concerts by A. Vivaldi was mentioned by the composer during a personal interview in March 2009). Yet in this piece the appearance of an element is just an instantaneous splash. The interruption of the lyrical narration with the rolls of thunder is a subject over-fall that serves as a linking element with the abbreviated dynamic reprise. The conclusion of the picture gives the impression of serenity and a kind of sublime harmony. Fine sound imitating some bird timbers gradually fades away in pianissimo.

Summer Part Three, “Summer. The Fountain Dance” (Allegro, E-dur), submerges the listener into the sultry season. Fountain is a characteristic feature of summery Tashkent; therefore, in this musical picture it has become the object of sound-picturing experiments. The program choice for this part of the cycle was not accidental. The city landscape of Tashkent is hard to imagine without these oases of coolness. The composer focused on communicating different nuances of the new image and its refined colouristic realization. The impression from the fountain “dance” is pictured multi-dimensionally. Glitter of diamond jets and playful streams is communicated through the combination of improvisational freedom of uninterruptedly waving lines and figurations, either dissolving in the orchestra fabric, or crystallizing again. In the ramified patterned fabric of superimposed sound streams one can easily discern the details of this multi-dimensional colour sketch.

Sextuplet divided into two counter moves constitutes a segment from which a horizontal and vertical integrity of “sound plasma” gradually grows. The indivisibility of the “sound matter” and predisposition to homogeneity are achieved through “accumulating” nature of development and variability of superimposed elements. Melodic outline of the sketch evolves gradually: on the one hand, it is crystallized from ascending rectilinear gamut-like tiratas, and, on the other, it shows flexibility and intricacy of syncopated ends of melodic phrases. Mono-intonation, one element growing from the other, and gradual expansion of a diapason point to the traditional way in which the material is developed.

The orchestra texture of the sketch emphasizes integrity and indivisibility of musical fabric that seems to unite water streams of different force and volume into a common “chorus”, while the super-positioning of different strata and interchanging of different timber-sound blocks is done with clearly differentiated functions – expressive (the theme) and decorative (background). Rich colour range, abundant half-tones, and refined and specific understanding of colouristic potential helped the composer to create a palette akin to the one of impressionism.

The structure of this part does not follow classical principles. It should be defined as new contemporary type of “crescending form” (the term introduced by V. Kholopova) (2, p. 472). This is an open form structured according to the principle of uninterrupted crescendo achieved by compacting texture and gradually increasing the number of voices in the orchestra vertical, and by including more fountains into the “dance”. This mounting development leads to a triumphant culmination – tutti. The part concludes with a culminating cadence that plays a centralizing role in the architectonics of the musical picture.

Autumn As of Part Four, “Autumn. The Harvest Festival” (Allegro, D-dur), the title directly links this phase in the cyclic composition to the calendar-ritual cycle. Calendar holidays evolved in the process of human labour and activities to reflect labour processes in the farming cycle. The harvest festival presented here as extended genre scene, is deliberately built into the subject of urban environment. Autumnal oriental market-place and seasonal fairs displaying autumnal agricultural bounty are the invariable attributes of the season. Therefore, the harvest festival can be sensed in Tashkent every year.

Structurally, the sketch fits into a free rondo form with clearly presented dominating role of the refrain. The usul of nagora gives a small introduction to the main theme (refrain) of this part. It is distinguished by vivid thematic material based on traditional stylistics, as well as by dynamism, complex rhythm (5/8), and festive elation of musical expression. The refrain is shaped as a square period. The first episode is an expressive tanbur solo supported by the usul of doira and bass gijaks. The classical maqom melody “Toshkent Iroghi” is quoted here. From the mono-intonation complex, with the help of variant-variation development, a melodious theme gradually unfolds, in which harmonies are played around. “As the main tone-group (underlying the theme) often causes analogous to itself functional and tonal correlation of inner-side sound groups, one gets the feeling of transposed development of the original group, and the process of establishing a complete harmony scale of a maqom acquires an uninterrupted character” (3, p. 91). At a new stage of narration, the tambur is joined by kushnai. On the whole, this episode illustrates a “close-up” of a large genre scene, which the composer uses to communicate a lyrical and contemplative image. A short linking element brings it to the refrain. Dynamic and capacious, it is enriched with new timbers.

The second episode is a natural continuation of the festive images. The classic (maqom) melody, “Toshkent Ufori”, performed on dutar is characterized by a limber sextuple time. The part of nagora maintains the ajam usul (3, p. 120). In the third, concluding, episode the refrain smoothly goes into coda that features heterophonic polyphony, extended values and cadenza turns. It performs the completing function for the entire cycle. In this sketch the composer achieves the natural and diverse presentation and development of themes of explicitly manifest traditional origin. A clear-cut structure brings gracefulness and integrity, thus making the cycle parts blend into one colourful picture. Another important feature that characterizes image presentation in the cycle is the simultaneous action of two factors: a “close-up” in each part of the cycle, internal concentration and diversity of contrasts within the parts. The composer is able not only to outline the common theme, but also to become absorbed in its details. This is a rare example when the subject-ness and intonation of an urban theme are united in a strongly fused “monographic” appearance.

Rakhimov skilfully employs the abilities of folk orchestra, giving special attention to developing the potential of traditional instruments. Masterful orchestration of the piece enables the composer to personify the timbers. It is generally based on the realization of structural, intonation-related and rhythmic specificities of Uzbek melodies. All this is backed up by his profound knowledge of traditions. The instrumentation of the piece can be compared with the creation of a canvas. A. Rubinstein once noted that “instrumentation of a musical piece for orchestra is like painting a picture. Combining instruments is like blending the paints to get a particular colour. Light and shadow are a law in instrumentation too. As a matter of fact, audition of an orchestra piece should be guided by the same rules as for viewing a picture: attention should first be given to the composition, then to the pattern…, and then to the richness of colours” (4, p. 200).

The interpretation of ‘the seasons’ theme in the work of contemporary artists is marked by the aspiration to poeticise the images of nature in their homeland. This has been a characteristic feature in the art of Uzbekistan’s composers of all generations. Hence the pantheistic world view and particularly caring attitude to land, which can be considered intrinsic to Uzbek mentality. The analysis of the cycle created by Khabibulla Rakhimov, one of the most remarkable and prolific modern composers, enables one to say that in the early 21st century the four seasons theme enters a new phase in its development, which is largely connected with its environmental mission. The interaction between man and nature in this time of real ecological threat acquires a special meaning. Under these circumstances artists more often turn to nature and its universal laws, trying to get a new insight into and interpretation of these laws and implement them in their art. Gradually, globalization contributed to the development of “ecological world view”, the essence of which is in understanding the inter-dependence of man and nature. Today, as in all earlier stages, in the aspiration for complete cognition of the supreme logic of natural phenomena and their integrity, the cognition of global harmony remains the common idea.

1. Головач И. М. Формирование музыкальной среды большого города в связи с воздействием средств массовой коммуникации (на материалах социологических опросов молодежи Ташкента 80-х годов) // Автореф. Канд. Дисс. Ташкент, 1990.
2. Холопова В. Н. Формы музыкальных произведений. СПб, 2001.
3. Ибрагимов О. А. Фергано-ташкентские макомы. Ташкент, 2006.
4. Рубинштейн А. Г. Литературное наследие. В трех томах. Т. 1 – М., 1983.

Zhanna Martirosova

Pin It

Comments are closed.