world famous musician and the man fronting the Gabala International Music Festival

Pages 14-17

by Fiona Machlachlan

Azerbaijan is about to host its second International Music Festival, set to become an annual event.

And what a treat it promises to be, showcasing not only some of the world’s most fabulous music and musicians, but also some of the world’s most fantastic scenery.

Set in a stunning location near Gabala, with the majestic forested and snow topped Caucasian mountains as a backdrop, this event simply has to be attended by anyone who both loves music and appreciates the natural beauty of our world.

Gabala’s five star Qafqaz Resort Hotel & Spa complex provides perfect facilities for the musical event and, as well as the possibility of staying here, there are other accommodation options nearby, from international standard three and four star hotels to much simpler home-stays. You will experience a real Azerbaijani welcome wherever you stay.

Much of the concept of this festival is down to the affable and gracious international musician Dmitry Yablonsky. Son of the renowned pianist Oxana Yablonskaya, Dmitry plays the cello and is also a conductor.

A few years ago, on a musical tour which included Baku, Dmitry Yablonsky came to know Azerbaijan and also Farhad Badalbeyli, the Director of the Music
Dmitry with Farhad Badalbeyli in Israel after a concert in March 2010Dmitry with Farhad Badalbeyli in Israel after a concert in March 2010
Conservatoire in the capital. They talked, and the idea of hosting a music festival was born. I met Dmitry Yablonsky by chance in Gabala, just before the fi rst festival last year, and I was completely awed by his plans, both for his Gabala piano factory and for the festival. Dmitry Yablonsky’s enthusiasm for Azerbaij an concurred with mine and we were soon chatting over tea about Azerbaijani carpets as well as his amazing international music playing lifestyle. The piano factory is now officially open and making pianos under the ‘Beltmann’ brand name; his grandson Mr Hans Lafering from Holland is the General Designer. When I heard about the ambitious plans for this year’s festival, I decided I just had to find out more about the amazing Dmitry Yablonsky.

I tracked him down to his home near Andorra, high in the mountains, on the border of France and Spain.

I asked him some questions:

Dmitry, you are bringing an International Music Festival to Gabala in Azerbaij an for the second year running. Please describe yourself.

As you know I am co-artistic director of Gabala festival with Farhad Badalbeyli, the director of Baku Academy of Music and a wonderful pianist. There are many festivals in Azerbaijan, but only in Baku, and the idea was to start a festival in nature, away from the city.
Gabala International Music FestivalGabala International Music Festival
Azerbaijan had never had that idea. With the help of some businessmen and local authorities we tried to do our best for the first festival, which took place in Gabala, 2009. We also had a piano competition and master classes with students. It was a lot of work, but in the end it was worth it. We had an orchestra from Israel in residence and many invited artists from all over the world. People came from all over Azerbaijan, from as far as Ganja, Sheki and Shemakha, not to mention the villages around Gabala. The reaction was overwhelming from both the audience and the government.

Now the idea is to make the Gabala International Music Festival part of Azerbaij ani culture.

You have run international festivals successfully in other countries. What is your secret?

We musicians are always looking for a home away from home and for us to spend 10 days or 2 weeks making music with friends is a wonderful experience, not to mention organizing these festivals all over the world. One tries to be very hospitable and to make sure everyone, including the public of course, has a very special time.

Why did you decide to bring an international music festival to Azerbaijan?
The festival opening ceremony in GabalaThe festival opening ceremony in Gabala
We had an idea to have a piano factory in Gabala, which is now running at full speed and Gabala is one of the most spectacular natural reserves in the world, where the mountains reach 4500 metres.

Can you explain why Gabala is such a fantastic venue?

Gabala has 5 star hotels now, a spa with outdoor and indoor swimming pools, an ice skating rink, amusement park, a Greek-style theatre, built especially for outside concerts; there is also a wonderful chamber music hall inside the hotel with 350 seats.

When is this year’s festival?

The festival starts on July 23rd and will run until August 6th. This year, we will have: the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra from London as a resident orchestra, Yuri Bashmet, Boris Berezovsky, Chloe Hanslip, the Ysaye Quartet and many more wonderful musicians.

Here are 2 photos; one is with 2 of my cellos, the Joseph Guarneri fi lius Andrea of 1726 and the Matteo Gofriller of 1700, and the second photo is with Farhad Badalbeyli in Israel after a concert in March 2010.

Dmitry in a carpet shop in Baku, with the owner and his assistant Ilchin. The shop is next to the Sultan Restaurant near Maiden TowerDmitry in a carpet shop in Baku, with the owner and his assistant Ilchin. The shop is next to the Sultan Restaurant near Maiden Tower
Dmitry Yablonsky will be conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and will, of course, be welcoming many musicians and guests to Gabala. Exciting times!

For further details of the festival, including how to get tickets, see

For information on the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and its tour of Azerbaij an see the events pages of For more information on Dmitry Yablonsky, check out and

Just be aware that our dynamic Dmitry spends more time on his music and his olive farm than on updating his own website...