Bridging Music and Poetry – Mohammed Fairouz and David Handler at Le Poisson Rouge

photos and article by Ilona Oltuski – GetClassical.org

 

 

 

The newly launched series, Return to Language, which seeks to imaginatively blend text and music into an amalgamate of artistic substance, provided a perfect opportunity for a special presentation featuring Le Poisson Rouge’s own David Handler and American-Arab composer Mohammed Fairouz.

Fairouz’s January 2015 release of Follow, Poet on Deutsche Grammophon marks the artist’s debut on the yellow power label – excellent timing for a live performance of “Audenesque”, an excerpt of the recording, with the Ensemble LPR conducted by Evan Rogister.

Mezzo soprano Kate Lindsey’s (photo- with Ensemble LPR) astonishing vocal range and theatrical talent gave intense expression to the highs and lows of Fairouz’s composition, transforming wild pitches and uttered lingual sequences into fanciful rhythmic and melodic otherworldliness.

Set to the poetry of Seamus Heaney and read by Irish writer, Paul Muldoon, “Audenesque” is based on an elegy mourning the loss of poetic giant W. B. Yeats; it is also a tribute to the 20th century lineage of English-language poets.

With four symphonies, an opera and several chamber and solo works to his name, Fairouz’s deeply emotive, timeless messages and metaphors, as well as the musical references to his Middle Eastern roots, have contributed greatly to the composer’s growing reputation as an unique musician The New York Times calls ”an important new artistic voice.”

Composer, violinist and violist David Handler’s composition, Celtic Verses, performed by harpist Kristi Shade and mezzo-soprano Mary Mackenzie whose crisp voice and purist diction moved with the music’s poetic waves, offered a further highlight of the evening.

Long familiar with the concept of language as music and sound, Handler recalls being as fascinated by the material leading to Celtic Verses, as he was with the transformative power of language in Fairouz’s work.

For Handler, co-founder of LPR and the Ensemble LPR, which, in a previous interview, he described as a natural outgrowth of LPR’s curatorial identity, the evening’s musical collaboration also helped to further the venue’s artistic and curatorial identity.

During the evening’s on-stage discussion with the composers, former IMG Managing Director Elisabeth Sobol, who had initiated the series for Universal Music Classics, shared her fascination and lifelong belief in the power of language and literature. At IMG, where she had managed artists like Evgeny Kissin, Joshua Bell and Itzhak Perlman, Sobol – now President and CEO of the Decca Label group – was instrumental in opening the doors for new music and genre-bending collaborations.

 

Joined on stage by Paul Muldoon, she expressed her hope that the evening’s encounter between two exceptional artists working at the crossroads of music and language “will spark a deeper kind of listening experience and, ultimately, a deeper sort of emotional response, because that’s the whole point of art: to be inspired and moved deeply.”

And Fairouz explained his thoughts: “In both our poetic and diplomatic lives, I would argue for a broad return to a love for illustrious language. Poetry can give us a means to reach beyond the daily, confused present and touch something timeless and eternal. At a time when the search for meaning has never been more critical, it seems to me that a return to language, to a respect in the way we treat each other with and through language is the first step in solving some of the problems of human communication and understanding that are manifest in conflicts from the Middle East to the halls of the U.S. Congress to the unchecked, vitriol sounding on social media. In times like ours, there is an imperative to use and value language more carefully and thoughtfully – a need to listen to and admire thoughtful language as part of our day-to-day lives. Our highest forms of linguistic expression are a defining element – and reflection of – our humanity.”

Sounds like a well-versed prayer to me. 

Violinist Paul Huang – Nurture and Nature

The contours of natural talent, education, and unlimited personal support from his family all blend together for young Taiwanese/American violinist Paul Huang, who came to Juilliard’s Pre-College division at age 13. “It meant a lot of changes for my family, when my mom came to New York by my side, parting from the family and [...]

Pianist Alon Goldstein – pursuit of one’s vision and voice never go out of style

“There was one force, though, that existed from the moment the first note of the piece was pressed until the last note disappeared. That was the force of gravity. As the melody soared high above, then dived back down almost touching the ground, making loops and leaps, taking us on a rollercoaster journey, it was a journey in anti-gravity…and Fleisher commented, ‘Listen to the way the long notes make a crescendo after being pressed, followed by a diminuendo before the next note arrives…Every physicist would say this is impossible, but we musicians are not physicist, we are illusionists. This is vocal playing.’”

The Gümüşlük International Classical Music Festival

In 2012, the festival moved from its original location to an ancient stone quarry situated on the southwestern seaside of Gümüşlik’s Koyunbaba area, gaining an idyllic panoramic view and further artistic participation, contributing to its significant cultural stance.

Quintessentially Russian: Philippe Quint’s new Tchaikovsky/Arensky recording

Intended as a memorial to Tchaikovsky, Arensky’s quartet, Op.35, includes themes of the master’s Chansons Enfantines, Op. 54 in the variations of the quartet’s second movement, adding Russian patriotic themes, like the hymn Slava Bogu no nebe slava, which draws from an ancient funeral mass and was also used in the ceremonial tradition of the crowning of the Tsar, turning Tchaikovsky, as Quint observes, into “the Tsar of composers.”

Music and Film – Touching the sound

Rosen seeks out his film’s characters according to the drama they convey. He looks for storylines created by individuals’ conflicts, their relationships with others or their own artistic personality, and most importantly by their redemption: overcoming their individual challenges – that’s the story he tells, amidst each project’s own, particular soundtrack.

Violinist Asi Mathatias – Talent forges its way

He is able to teach the abc’s of getting good sound, how to control your bow arm, how to hold the instrument properly and adjust the bow arm according to your shape and size of your hand. Even sound comes from the right distribution of the weight of your fingers and your arm. There is a method to the madness, although, having said that, there is always the individual way of what works for you. Many great musicians had quite unconventional ways of applying their own technique and still did fantastic, just think of Heifetz, whose bowing goes probably against everything we know, still succeeding with such fantastic results,” he says. “Zukerman believes in the “natural” way of playing, in order to avoid injuries. That means without straining or forcing, in any way. That means you have to build up your capacity constantly, since wanting to express something, without having the technical means, tenses you up immediately. It’s something that requires a lot of guidance, and he provided that en galore. Not every great player can teach from his own experiences, but he certainly gives you an all around approach to playing violin and its many different sound roles, when playing in a small or large environment, with or without an orchestral context, understanding its surrounding sound instead of just focusing on its melodic line. So many years of experience, performing with such ease…Zukerman’s example makes it quite clear that making music is not only a profession but a very particular way of life,” says Mathatias.

International flavor with Czech tradition

SubCulture, the intimate downtown performance venue, has established itself as an outlet for world-class performances. They have programmed these performances in collaboration with the greater Institutions of the classical world like the 92Y, and the New York Philharmonic. Yesterday’s evening with the Smetana Trio, jointly presented by SubCulture and the 92Y, brought musical mastery and [...]

Pianist Alexandre Moutouzkine – modernist Cuban idiom and Russian virtuosity in New York

“It is that level of greatness that is intoxicating, connecting with great art and with the meaning behind it all…rarely achieved, but always strived for. It is that energy, which comes from the music itself, these sounds that embody a message…as a performer you are in the ocean, with the movement of the music, and when the wave rises – and you catch it – it raises you – and your audience. It’s magic, and all about that energy that is in the sound, just like ultrasound has the power to heal; music can change everything on a molecular level. But on stage you are in the moment, you can never play the same exact way again, but you have that energy and what you do with it – like in real life – is up to you in that instant.”

Sivan Magen – fresh sounding promise of David’s harp

While there are an astounding number of harpists around, who, as Sivan shares, are flocking somewhat regularly (every three years) to worldwide harp conventions by the hundreds, a harp performance these days, whether solo or in a chamber music setting, is still quite the rarity.