EXCLUSIVE: Mohammed Fairouz Talks W.H. Auden, 'No Orpheus' Release and Feb. 17 at (L)PR

By Ian Holubiak on Feb 09, 2016 12:36 PM EST
EXCLUSIVE: Mohammed Fairouz Talks W.H. Auden, 'No Orpheus' Release and Feb. 17 at (L)PR Singer George Abud and composer Mohammed Fairouz attend the Bridges of Understanding's Annual 'Building Bridges' Award Dinner Honoring Tony Award Winning Director Julie Taymor at the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse at Lincoln Center on November 9, 2015 in New York City. (Photo : Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Bridges of Understanding)

Mohammed Fairouz is one of this generation's most celebrated--and performed--composers. His works have been heralded by New Yorker magazine who claim Fairouz is an "expert in vocal writing." Touching on social issues far and wide, his virtuosity with texts archaic and new have earned him the title as a post-millennial Schubert.

In connection with his exploration into the human experience via text, Fariouz has conjured another musical tapestry woven with different stories all dealing with the powerful social issues we face daily (or, perhaps, don't) and the ideal sensual celebrations of life through the arts.

"Whether you are thinking about Anwar Sadat or John F. Kennedy or W.H. Auden, paying attention to the arts is a matter of national security and in part I say that because it's the only way to get people in Washington to listen," Mr. Fairouz explains to me in a call about his artistic pathway and duty as an artist of the people.

"And as another part, I say it because it's innately true," he concluded.

To be released via Naxos on February 12, No Orpheus, is Mohammed's next vocal collection, which will include W.H. Auden's Refugee Blues, Ibyn Shuhayd's After the Revels, Lloyd Schwartz's No Orpheus and Edgar Allen Poe's famous Annabel Lee.

The themes of love, loss and longing are common throughout history and, in dealing with their presence romantically, have sustained as the most compelling conflicts with being human. Perhaps Fairouz's long-time muse, mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey, is apt for helping channel that conflict through Mohammed's compositions.

And his compositions are blanketed with social commentary, trying to enable and rally the connection between art and politics, saying, "Overwhelmingly the mission [of art] is working and in terms of the long art--or its long-armmed history--it's artists speaking over poetry and music rather than a political agenda, with diplomatic expectations from the people."

"Instead," he continued to remark, "it's these sorts of things, like art, that are bringing people together and that are humanizing people to one another, which makes it work so much more [than politics]."

Buttressed up to the release, also, will be a performance at the intimate downtown dwelling (Le) Poisson Rouge on Feb. 17 at 7:30 p.m. The program, of course, will feature vocal work by Ms. Lindsey, Kiera Duffy and Christopher Burchett. Dubbed as a decade of songs from ancient texts through World War II, the gala will also feature Wayne Koestenbaum and Lloyd Schwartz.

When speaking last year with Mr. Fairouz about his then-current endeavor "Audenesque," one half of the two-part collection entitled Follow Poet, he remarked on the essence of why Auden is a frequent detail in his work.

Fairouz says, "'Audenesque' was in collaboration with my friend, the late-Irish poet Seamus Heaney, and the song cycle takes its name because it evokes nature and stress of Auden's eulogies written for another great Irish writer, W.B. Yeats. As far as W.H Auden is concerned, my basis for bringing him into my work, I had written a lot of folk music and a lot of art songs and song cycles."

He continued, "Auden is one of the great poets. He has an ability to draw on the contemporary reality of the world and invest them in a certain scenic way in his poetry. So I think it was sort of a natural fit"

And if you so happen to not be familiar with the topical songwriter--though you should be--Mr. Fairouz's eloquent masterpieces all engage geopolitical, sociopolital and philosophical themes and are written for large symphonies. Perhaps that is why in all of Deutsche Grammophon's unique 115-year history, Fairouz reigns as its youngest composer with a dedicated series of releases.

Last year, the composer helped usher in the Naxos' Return to Language series with works entrenched in poetry and prose. His anthologies include one particular collection--that is, Follow Poet, an undertaking of Auden and Anwar Sadat--that reveal a fall of the artist.

"[Auden's] eulogies for Yeats have elements of the fall of the artistic type. You get it more exclusively in poems like 'The World on the Brink of War' and other pieces like 'Refugees Blues' and 'September 1st, 1939.' The moral landscape of the world and the way we perceive it is sort of unique and has always drawn me."

But this is where Fairouz pivots to include themes of social change and the major impact on the human spirit in terms of social politics. The second half of Follow Poet is an exemplar of Anwar Sadat's peace treaty with Israel, an event that would try to unify the Arab world more squarely and what would ultimately win Sadat a Nobel Peace Prize.

"I think [Sadat] has served many people of my generation and that is one of the movements in the piece," Mohammed cantoed. "There's a common saying that the sort of well-traveled, well established diplomats and statesmen of the world would go all over and travel the four corners of the globe but, at least for Sadat, in actuality, the longest journey he ever took was the 28 minute plane ride from Cairo to Jerusalem and, indeed, that would mark the longest journey of his life."

Of course, this journey is what would ultimately help establish peace throughout the region and bring an end to the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict, and what Mohammed also felt brought "recycles of peace, allowing the song flower to blossom."

Speaking to that affect, Mohammed continued, "It ended up being that 1973 was the last major Arab-Israeli conflict and so the Arabs and Israelis never went to war again. And you can only think about the amount of lives that it saved in the long term so he's really an inspiration."

For now, the Naxos release is slated for a Feb. 12 release date with a performance at (L)PR to follow on the 17. Don't miss out on purchasing your tickets today and for an added preview check out the master composer below.

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TagsMohammed Fairouz, No Orpheus, Le Poisson Rouge, Audenesque, Sadat, Follow Poet, EXCLUSIVE

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