Safi al-Din al-Urmawi (1271-1294) from South (Persian) Azerbaijan was a music theorist and composer. Al-Urmawi masterfully played the oud, and made musical instruments the mugni a nuzha. Al-Urmavi was also the author of theoretical tractates of Azerbaijani music – “Kitab al-Adwar” (“The Book of Musical Modes”) and “Al-Risalah al-Sharafiyya”. A creative work of al-Urmavi, the founder of the famous “School of systematisation”, well-known in the Middle East, represented a new stage in the development of music-theoretical thought in the East.
Urmavi is considered the founder of theoretical studies of the mugham musical tradition. He systematised the sound complexes underlying Azerbaijani music and music of the Near and Middle East. Urmavi wrote 4 pieces of music in the “Kitab al-Adwar” thanks to complete system of eastern scores, created by him.
Abd al-Qadir al-Maraghi (1353-1453) from South (Persian) Azerbaijan made a tremendous contribution to the theoretical study of the musical culture of Azerbaijan. In a number of treatises he gave a theoretical treatise of the 24-key system, descriptions of forms and genres, as well as many musical instruments of his time. Warlord and government official Tamerlane called him “padishah of all experts of music” after he personally heard al-Maraghi music. His best-known musical treatise is “Jami al-Alhan” (“A comprehensive book of melodies”). In it, mugham is firstly, thoroughly and scientifically developed as a term and genre concept. British scientist-orientalist Henry D. Farmer called al-Maraghi “the last classic of the medieval science of music”.
Uzeyir Hajibeyov (1885-1948) was an Azerbaijani composer, conductor and music theorist, a founder of the modern professional musical art of Azerbaijan. He was the first to combine Western and Eastern musical styles; elements of Azerbaijani folk music were adapted to classical European traditions. He wrote the first opera in the Islamic East as well as in Azerbaijan (1908, “Layla and Majnun”), and was the founder of mugham opera. He wrote seven operas and three operettas. Uzeyir Hajibeyov became the pioneer of a new genre of vocal chamber music – romantic ghazals. He established many reforms in Azerbaijani culture. It was he who created the first opera group, he was the first to give a part in his opera to a female singer, became the first organiser of benefit concerts, initiated the foundation of a higher musical education institution – the Azerbaijan State Conservatory, the Baku Symphonic Orchestra, and significantly contributed to the development of symphonic music.
A theoretical work of Uzeyir Hajibeyov “The Fundamentals of Azerbaijani folk music” made a great contribution to the foundations of Azerbaijani music research and its main direction – mugham.
Music critic Matthew О’Brien (USA) wrote: “Composer Hajibeyov is comparable to Glinka, his influence as a teacher is comparable to the contribution of Rimsky-Korsakov or Taneev, Hajibeyov in the role of the founder of Azerbaijani musical education is comparable with the Rubinstein brothers …”.
The day of birth of Uzeyir Hajibeyov, 18 September, is celebrated in Azerbaijan as the Day of Music.