Mohammed Fairouz, In the Shadow of No Towers, Carnegie Hall, 4th Symphony, Timpani Concerto, Glass
The final movement of the work, Anniversaries, opens with an anxiety-provoking ticking that persists throughout the movement. Comments Fairouz, "This is music that is unable to mourn, instead concerning itself with the passage of time and the commemorations of each anniversary. Throughout the movement the music grows louder and louder and the memory of the towers come to loom far larger than life. With each anniversary, there is both a fading of the true memory and an enlargement of mythic status."
Native Informant, released March 26 on Naxos, is the third CD devoted to Mohammed Fairouz's music, following the chamber compilation Critical Models (2011, Sono Luminus) and his opera Sumeida's Song (2012, Bridge). The title composition is a five-movement sonata for solo violin commissioned and performed by Rachel Barton Pine. The disc also includes Chorale Fantasy, played by the Borromeo String Quartet; Jebel Lebnan with the Imani Quintet; Tahwidah for soprano (Mellissa Hughes) and clarinet (David Krakauer); and a pair of song cycles: Posh, to a text by Wayne Koestenbaum, with baritenor Christopher Thompson and pianist Steven Spooner; and For Victims, on a text by David Shapiro, sung by baritone David Kravitz, accompanied by the Borromeo String Quartet.
Says Fairouz, "The title of the my violin sonata, Native Informant, is meant ironically: warding off the stereotypical tensions of "East vs West" and the reductive representation of an entire complex culture as 'exotic,' my ideal in all of these works is to project a passionate concern for social justice. This concern embodies many personalities in the chamber music on this disk, from the weeping father of Posh to the mother singing a lullaby to her dead son in Tahwidah, the speaker recalling his cantor grandfather in Song of the Victims, the lamentation centerpiece of my violin sonata for the men and women who lost their lives resisting oppression in the Egyptian Revolution, and the chronicling of destruction, death and rebirth in Jebel Lebnan."
Mohammed Fairouz, born in 1985, is one of the most frequently performed, commissioned, and recorded composers of his generation. Hailed by The New York Times as "an important new artistic voice" and by BBC News as "one of the most talented composers of his generation," Fairouz melds Middle-Eastern modes and Western structures to deeply expressive effect. His large-scale works, including four symphonies and an opera, engage major geopolitical and philosophical themes with persuasive craft and a marked seriousness of purpose. His solo and chamber music attains an "intoxicating intimacy," according to New York's WQXR.
A truly cosmopolitan voice, Fairouz had a transatlantic upbringing. By his early teens, the Arab-American composer had traveled across five continents, immersing himself in the musical life of his surroundings. Prominent advocates of his instrumental music include the Borromeo and Lydian String Quartets, the Imani Winds, The Knights Chamber Orchestra, Metropolis Ensemble, violinists Rachel Barton Pine and James Buswell, clarinetist David Krakauer, and conductors Gunther Schuller, Fawzi Haimor, and Yoon Jae Lee.
He has been recognized as an "expert in vocal writing" by the New Yorker magazineand as a "post-millennial Schubert" by Gramophone Magazine. Among the eminent singers that have promoted his wealth of vocal music are Kate Lindsey, Sasha Cooke, Lucy Shelton, D'Anna Fortunato, David Kravitz and Randall Scarlata.
Commissions have come from the Borromeo Quartet, Imani Winds, New York Festival of Song, Da Capo Chamber Players, New Juilliard Ensemble, Cantus Vocal Ensemble, Cygnus Ensemble, Counter)induction, Alea III, Musicians for Harmony, and many others. Recordings of his music are available on the Naxos, Bridge, Dorian Sono Luminus, Cedille, Albany, GM/Living Archive, and GPR labels.
Mohammed Fairouz is the subject of a documentary by BBC World Service TV, has been featured on NPR's All Things Considered and BBC/PRI's The World, and has been profiled in Symphony, Strings, New Music Box, and the Houston Chronicle, among others.
His principal teachers in composition have included György Ligeti, Gunther Schuller, and Richard Danielpour, with studies at the Curtis Institute and New England Conservatory. His works are published by Peermusic Classical. He lives in New York City.
Photo Credit: Samantha West