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 World News as "one of the most talented composers of his generation," Fairouz integrates Middle-Eastern modes into 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, which selected his CD Critical Models as Album of the Week.
Fairouz's cosmopolitan outlook reflects his transatlantic upbringing and extensive travels. By his early teens, the Arab-American composer had journeyed across five continents, immersing himself in the musical life of his surroundings. His catalog encompasses virtually every genre, including opera, symphonies, ensemble works, chamber and solo pieces, choral settings, and electronic music. Prominent advocates of his instrumental music include the Borromeo String Quartet, The Imani Winds, violinist Rachel Barton Pine, and clarinetist David Krakauer, who all appear on his Naxos portrait disc, Native Informant; the Lydian String Quartet, The Knights Chamber Orchestra, Metropolis Ensemble, violinist James Buswell, and conductors Gunther Schuller, Joshua Weilerstein, Mark Shapiro, Fawzi Haimor, and Yoon Jae Lee.
Since childhood, Fairouz has found musical inspiration in literary and philosophical sources. The composer has described himself in Poets and Writers magazine as "obsessed with text." His first attempt at composition, at age seven, was an Oscar Wilde setting; since then, he has composed an opera (with a second in progress), thirteen song cycles, and hundreds of art songs. He has been recognized by New Yorker magazine as an "expert in vocal writing," while Gramophone has called him a "post-millennial Schubert." He has collaborated directly with several distinguished poets, including Mahmoud Darwish, Wayne Koestenbaum, and Nobel Prize-winner Seamus Heaney. Among the eminent singers that have promoted his wealth of vocal music are Kate Lindsey, Sasha Cooke, D'Anna Fortunato, Mellissa Hughes, David Kravitz and Randall Scarlata.
Commissions have come from Rachel Barton Pine, the Detroit and Alabama Symphony Orchestras, 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, Seattle Chamber Players, Cantori New York, Back Bay Chorale, Reach Out Kansas, and many others.
His music has been performed at Carnegie Hall (all three auditoriums), Lincoln Center, Boston's Symphony Hall, The Kennedy Center, and throughout the United States, the Middle East, Europe, and Australia. It is also heard in alternative New York venues such as Le Poisson Rouge, Issue Project Room, Roulette, and Galapagos. Recordings are available on the Naxos, Innova, Bridge, Dorian Sono Luminus, Cedille, Albany, GM/Living Archive, and GPR labels.
As an artist involved with major social issues, Fairouz seeks to promote cultural communication and understanding. His third symphony, Poems and Prayers for mezzo-soprano, baritone, chorus, and orchestra, interweaves texts of Arab poets Fadwa Tuqan and Mahmoud Darwish, the Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai, and prayers such as the Aramaic Kaddish. His fourth and latest symphony is In the Shadow of No Towers for wind ensemble. It is inspired by Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novelist Art Spiegelman's book of the same title about American life in the aftermath of 9/11. The work premiered in March 2013 in Carnegie Hall's Stern Auditorium; Steve Smith of The New York Times described it as "technically impressive, consistently imaginative and in its finest stretches deeply moving." It has been recorded for future release on Naxos.
Fairouz's first opera, Sumeida's Song, is based on the play Song of Death by the Egyptian playwright Tawfiq al-Hakim. The opera follows the protagonist Alwan's attempts to bring modernity to darkness and break a never-ending cycle of violence, with grave consequences for Alwan. Sumeida's Song has been released on Bridge Records, and had its premiere staging at the Prototype festival of new opera-theater works at HERE Arts Center in NYC in January 2013. Anthony Tommasini of The New York Times called Sumeida's Song "an intensely dramatic 60-minute four-character opera with a searing score… The Arabic elements of his style – microtonal modes, spiraling dance rhythms, plaintive melodic writing – give fresh, distinctive jolts to the Western elements."
Mohammed Fairouz was chosen by the BBC to be a featured artist for the television series Collaboration Culture, which aired globally on BBC World Service TV (viewership approximately 70 million). As part of the program, which includes an in-depth profile of the composer, Fairouz developed and unveiled an entirely new dance work, Hindustani Dabkeh, featuring David Krakauer, the American String Quartet and Bollywood star Shakti Mohan.
Fairouz has been heard in interviews on nationally syndicated shows such as NPR's All Things Considered, BBC/PRI's The World, and The Bob Edwards Show. He has been profiled in the Wall Street Journal, Symphony Magazine, Strings Magazine, New Music Box, and the Houston Chronicle, and featured as part of a special segment on Sirius-XM's Symphony Hall channel.
His principal teachers in composition have included György Ligeti, Gunther Schuller, and Richard Danielpour, with studies at the Curtis Institute and New England Conservatory. Fairouz has been invited to lecture and lead residencies across the country at institutions such as Columbia University, Brown University, New York University, University of California at Los Angeles, Chestnut Hill College, and Grinnell College. He has served on the faculty at Northeastern University in Boston and several summer festivals, including SongFest and the Imani Winds Chamber Music Festival at The Juilliard School.
Fairouz's works are published by Peermusic Classical. He lives in New York City.
Mohammed Fairouz Profile - Collaboration Culture (c) BBC World News
Universal Music Classics releases a new album on the Deutsche Grammophon imprint of works by Mohammed Fairouz titled Follow, Poet, marking the composer's debut on the Yellow Label, and the first release in Universal Music Classics' Return to Language series. Produced by David Frost, the album includes the elegiac song cycle Audenesque sung by mezzo soprano Kate Lindsey, and the ballet Sadat. Both works feature the New York City chamber orchestra Ensemble LPR conducted by Evan Rogister.
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It's a chilly night in New York City, the 36-hour-old snow yet to thaw in Central Park. Mohammed Fairouz puts down an icy drink and continues to talk, unravelling giddying monologue of literary references, political opinions and personal sleights which sound a markedly conspicuous note in the generically dim-lit lobby that surrounds him.
The Emirati composer should probably be celebrating – this particular Manhattan hotel sits just a few doors down from Carnegie Hall, where Fairouz's latest composition received its world premiere less than an hour earlier – but something weighs heavy in the air, and on his mind. Besides, Fairouz has lost count of the number of time his work has been performed at the storied concert venue, the scene of scores of historic premieres – such as Antonín Dvořák's landmark ninth symphony From the New World, first performed by the New York Philharmonic back in 1893.
Premiered on April 3, Fairouz's latest work strikes a somewhat humbler tone. Entitled Piano Miniature No 19, Jabal Hafit [COR for the piece title], the fidgety, solo piano piece was written barely a week earlier, atop the Al Ain mountain of the same name. Chillingly sparse, composed largely of single notes – either left eerily to ring out or struck staccato – and punctuated by gaping silences. A piece so simple it is hard to play, and harder still to listen to – it is easy to imagine wide-open desert and rugged mountains as an inspiration. "We were in Al Ain, we found a hotel up Jabal Hafit, this really wonderful kitschy hotel," remembers Fairouz. "We went up and were waiting for our grilled seafood platter, and I decided to write something. It was the view – you know Al Ain is really quite amazing, especially after a few days in Dubai – at first, it's like going up to a (different) county – but which country?" Photo by Samantha West
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