Interview by Visual Collaborative
October 2020 6 min read
Saida Zulfugarova is a pianist of Azerbaijani descent based in France. She has been invited to and performed at numerous music festivals around the world, including, Festival des etudiants de Paris, Voce della Montagna (Pescasseroli, Italy), Vent d’Est (La Roziere, France), Muson Festival in Lagos. As a feature in our Eta Carinae interview series, we explore Saida’s background, music collaborations, and future work.
(VC) What music are you streaming or listening to at the moment?
(Saida) I’m listening to pieces of Beethoven, Azerbaijani classical music, particularly Üzeyir Hajibeyli and folk music, and some jazz.
(VC) You were born into a somewhat musical family, how much influence did your Uncle Oqtay Zulfugarov have on you, and at what level?
(Saida) indeed, I was born into a very musical family. My parents listened to a lot of classical, traditional, and popular music at home. Moreover, they used to play music at home. I always remember with emotion their improvised concerts, which I also became a part of very quickly. My uncle Oqtay Zulfugarov was someone whose opinion I respected very much. He was an example for me to follow. He spoke to me about discipline, high standards, and humility that are indispensable in the life of a musician. He followed my musical evolution closely. It took a lot of work to get the right result.
(VC) What is your go-to approach or practice today to claim your creative power of inspiration and imagination?
(Saida) I am someone who feels close to nature. I need to regularly recharge my batteries by spending time by the sea, contemplating trees and flowers. Nature is the best source of inspiration and music is everywhere. You have to be able to hear it. I find inspiration in art too. My favorite pastime is to go to museums and contemplate the works of art. I am lucky to live in Europe and see the greatest masterpieces with my own eyes. I love poetry, which is also an important source of inspiration for me. When I work on a piece, I do research around it, that is to say, I am interested in the time, the artists, who were those close to the composer. I also draw my inspiration from silence, as well as from the love of those close to me.
(VC) You have collaborated with very many noteworthy people at concerts or special events. Tell us about your more about key occasions during your career so far?
(Saida) Yes, I’ve had the chance to work with several world-renowned artists. This kind of co-creation is a privileged moment. Making music, plunging into the depths of the composer’s thought, and rising above the usual makes me love my job more. Chamber music is something magical in reality. It requires giving your best and supporting and inspiring your partners. I have had great pleasure working with wonderful musicians such as Sarah Nemtanu, Guillaume Martigné, sublime musicians of great musical generosity. Recently we have started working with the magnificent Franco-Nigerian soprano Omo Bello on the repertoire of French melodies of the 19th and 20th century: Debussy, Fauré, Poulenc, etc. It is a sublime pleasure to explore together this repertoire with such a musician.
(VC) You have lived in numerous big cities, such as France and Azerbaijan. How does your musical outlook?
(Saida) Living in the heart of Europe opens unlimited possibilities to create projects together with wonderful artists in all fields. I am open to new explorations. I am interested in chamber music, I want to create a duo with another pianist. It’s quite a delicate thing because you have to share the space and really unite with the other. But I like challenges, which are inspiring. I want to go towards new repertoires, unknown to me. One of the projects, which is always close to my heart, is to make the music of composers from Azerbaijan, my home country, known to as many people as possible.
Each person is a real mystery in itself. We have limitless abilities and often society and the media impose things on us, tell us what to do, what to eat, what to think, what to feel. I don’t want to lose my freedom to choose what is true and good for me at this moment and in the days that come
(VC) The media shapes society’s perceptions of awareness. What does self-awareness mean to you?
(Saida) Thank you for this rather difficult question. I will try to answer. I am trying to know myself as a magical being. Each person is a real mystery in itself. We have limitless abilities and often society and the media impose things on us, tell us what to do, what to eat, what to think, what to feel. I don’t want to lose my freedom to choose what is true and good for me at this moment and in the days that come. I seek to free myself from hesitations and fears, which block my energy, and to strengthen my will. It is important for me to listen to my heart, especially in difficult situations. To be true. I have my values and I respect them. I avoid judging others, it teaches me to be humble.
(VC) Considering your current education commitments, If you could work alongside any notable celebrity, conductor or company at this stage of your life. Who would it be and why?
(Saida) That’s really an exciting question about dreams! But, let’s say about something doable. I have some contacts and hope to do some interesting projects with the American conductor Garrett Keast. If we are talking about Dreams, what would delight me is to work with great opera singers such as Anna Netrebko and Jonas Kauffmann. I love their voices! I would like to have projects around the repertoire piano-cello, piano-violin, and collaborate with string quartets. There are wonders in the repertoire for piano quartettes. For example, the Russian repertoire with the Danel Quartet. I have never had the opportunity to perform in the United States. Doing projects with American artists, performing in Carnegie Hall is my childhood dream.
Photo courtesy Jennifer Marty
(VC) Saida, thanks for joining us for this quick chat. Is there anything you would like to share with our international audience?
(Saida) Thank you for this opportunity to share my thoughts with a wide audience. I would like to say several things. Currently, the world is going through a difficult, uncertain, depressing time for many of us. It is even more difficult for people from the theatre, ballet, opera, and musical artists. I wish us all a lot of courage and inspiration to get through this ordeal. I have always put music above everything, even above myself, being happy to serve it, to make it the meaning of my existence.
I hope I can continue to live my art and share the love, grace, and beauty that music represents for me with others. Like many others, I am concerned about ecology. I take this opportunity to invite everyone to do everything possible to preserve this beautiful blue planet, which is our home and the nurturing mother for all. Currently, there is a war in my home country – Azerbaijan. It is a 30-year-old conflict, of which few are those who know all the details and circumstances. I wish the Azerbaijani soldier and people come back safe and sound at home, as well as peace and well-being on the whole territory of Azerbaijan and reaching the whole globe as well.