World-renowned conductor takes podium for Cape Symphony's unity concert this weekend

Editor's note: Due to a reporter's error, the time of Sunday's performance of Cape Symphony’s “Fanfare: A Celebration of Unity.” was incorrectly listed. It is at 3 p.m.

Talking about his decades of working with orchestras around the world, conductor Farkhad Khudyev’s opening words are simple and direct: “Music has always been my best friend.”

The State Music School for Gifted Musicians was right across the street from his house in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.

“When I started I was six and there wasn't a moment when I thought about doing anything else,” Khudyev said in a telephone interview.

“In the beginning, I didn’t practice as much, but at 13, I started practicing five to seven hours a day. I wanted to physically spend more time with the instrument.”

Although the man who was the youngest performer selected to play with the National Violin Ensemble of Turkmenistan, at age 10, still plays violin and piano occasionally (he is teaching his 4-year-old daughter and will teach his 3-year-old son, who now just carries around a tiny violin) Khudyev’s focus these days is on conducting. He received his master’s degree in orchestral conducting from Yale University.

The guest conductor knows many eyes will be on him this weekend as he hoists the baton to conduct Cape Symphony’s “Fanfare: A Celebration of Unity.” Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday.

It is the Cape Symphony’s first concert at the Barnstable Performing Arts Center since conductor/artistic director Jung Ho Pak left.

“I bear strong responsibility to be ever embracing to the audience … and to make them feel comfortable because I know some of the audience are used to the previous leadership.”

As conductor, Khudyev said, he sees himself as a conduit between music that was composed a century ago and people who may be hearing those notes for the first time. He absorbs the sounds, the themes, the colors, the tempo — everything the composer put on the page so the creator’s vision can come alive decades after he or she is gone.

Farkhad Khudyev, composer and conductor, will be guest conductor for the Cape Symphony's "Fanfare: A Celebration of Unity."
Farkhad Khudyev, composer and conductor, will be guest conductor for the Cape Symphony's "Fanfare: A Celebration of Unity."

“Fanfare: A Celebration of Unity” includes works by Aaron Copland, Jean Sibelius, and Ludwig von Beethoven, music to “come together and celebrate our common humanity,” according to a description from Cape Symphony.

Beethoven's third symphony, Khudyuev said, is “a waterfall of emotions.”

“The piece is about the life of a hero, a person who strives for freedom, who undergoes struggles and celebrates joy. The music resonates because we all strive for those things, whether we know it or not.”

Khudyev, who conducts the University of Texas Symphony Orchestra in Austin, debuted what he thinks will be his only symphonic work, there in March. Ancient instruments from Asia were used: kamancha for strings and naghara for percussion.

The composition “Sounds of Eternity,” dedicated to world peace, is a 30-minute work involving ancient Mugham singing and is a fusion of east and west.

“It was very meaningful for me" he said. "I grew up there and felt an obligation to combine those worlds.”

Two fun facts: Khudyev’s music-loving parents were not musicians but raised three sons who are professional musicians.

Also, if you meet Khudyev, the ‘k’ in his first name is silent.  “Every time I go to Starbucks to get coffee and they ask my name it comes out differently. It is kind of fun to see what’s written on the cup.”

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This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: Guest conductor Farkhad Khudyev leads Cape Symphony in 'Fanfare'