Born in 1985, Mohammed Fairouz is resident in New York. He is already one of the most frequently performed composers of his generation and a considerable force on the musical scene. Fairouz’s teachers in composition included Gyorgy Ligeti in Vienna as well as John Heiss and Malcolm Peyton (New England Conservatory of Music), Gunther Schuller, Halim El-Dabh (Kent State University) and Richard Danielpour (Curtis Institute of Music, Manhattan School of Music).
To date Fairouz has composed three symphonies, an opera, and a wide variety of instrumental and vocal chamber music. He has received commissions from Musicians for Harmony, Northeastern University, Imani Winds and many others.
Being of Anglo-Arab background, his music straddles Eastern and Western idioms. ‘Critical Models’ (Fairouz’s debut CD Sono Luminus 2011) was Q2’s Album of the Week in early December 2011. Described as a ‘Captivating sextet of chamber works… an embarrassment of riches...the nature of the record’s six pieces lends an unshakeable sense of intoxicating intimacy”.
The disc contains instrumental music inspired by the sound world of the Azan (call to prayer), and by clichéd realisations of Arabic music (as in the third movement of ‘Four Critical Models’). The disc also exemplifies his diversity of influence from Lamentation and Satire, a musical reaction to the political situation in the Middle East, to Piano Miniatures inspired by a book of Hanon piano exercises and Bach’s The Art of Fugue. Songs have been inspired by the words of Alma Mahler (Jeder Mensch 2010), W.B Yeats (The Stolen Child 2005) and William Wordsworth (We are Seven 2007), Haiku poems of Judson Evans, a contemporary US poet, and many contemporary Arab poets. Fairouz has been recognized as an "expert in vocal writing" by the New Yorker and as a "post- millennial Schubert" by Gramophone Magazine.
His work has been recognised with awards from the New England Conservatory (Tourjee Alumni Award 2008), the Malcolm Morse Memorial Award, the NEC Honors award and recognition from the Merit funds of the Boston and New England Conservatories. He received a national citation from the Embassy of the U.A.E. in Washington D.C. for outstanding achievement in artistry and scholarship (2008).
He has been invited to lecture and lead residencies across America at institutions such as Columbia University, Brown University, Chestnut Hill College, Grinnell College, Northeastern University (Boston), Humbolt State University and the University of Western Michigan.
As a cultural ambassador, Fairouz is currently working with Musicians for Harmony to fulfil a commission for a large chamber work promoting dialogue between Arabic and Jewish musical traditions and cultural trends. A similar project in progress involves the commission of a large scale oratorio setting the poetry of modern Arab poets their Israeli counterparts as well as drawing on the sacred and secular texts of the Jewish, Christian and Islamic Middle East to weave together a narrative drama that seeks to illuminate the counterpoint between the poetics, music, languages and peoples of the region.
Fairouz’s work can also be heard on Albany (Ibis Camerata’s Boston Diary which features Bonsai Journal ), and GM (the recording of Lamentation and Satire by the Borromeo String Quartet ). An upcoming recording featuring Rachel Barton Pine, the Borromeo String Quartet, Imani Winds and David Krakauer is due for release on the Naxos Label in the 2012-13 season.
2011 saw no fewer than six world premieres including that of the opera Sumieda’s Song at The New York Society for Ethical Culture. Three world premieres (Symphony No 4 Actus Tragicus , a large-scale string quartet, for the Borromeo String Quartet, and a choral piece called Anything Can Happen) are due in 2012-2013 as is a performance of Sumeida’s Song at the Zankell Hall at Carnegie Hall.
Listen to NPR programme on Symphony No 3 here, and see a short documentary video, plus complete performance of Tahrir here.
“Mohammed Fairouz.. experiments with dissonance and microtonality to expressive effect, ‘Four Critical Models’ (2009) uses the violin for its penetrating tone and the saxophone for its insinuating smoothness in a spiky opening; a slow haunting second movement; and a pensive finale. Inspired by writings about music and Orientalism, the piece features a brilliantly handled third movement indictment of stereotypically ‘Arab’ music. (Think of snake charmers.) Every time a clichéd riff emerged, it would quickly disintegrate, exhausted and uncertain.”
(Zachary Woolfe, The New York Times)
"Mohammed Fairouz is an extraordinarily gifted young composer whose music engages the heart as well as the mind. Fairouz has already in his mid twenties, a formidable technical ability in his work and has revealed a highly personal voice . Most impressive of his recent works is a full length opera, Sumeida's Song, which I believe should be heard and seen. In an age in which cynicism is mistaken for intelligence, Mohammed Fairouz is a refreshing antidote to the music of his generation. A true young artist, who I believe has much to say in the years ahead."
(Richard Danielpour, Composer, Professor of Composition, Curtis Institute of Music)
"Biblical in sweep, the opera (Sumeida's Song) tells a story of a clash of old thought and new thought and, while written in 2009, comes, for Western listeners, on the heels of the unrest in Egypt that has led to the forming of a new type of government for that region. Fairouz is dedicated to bringing Eastern and Western thought together, and breaking down the barriers that prevent people from being everything they are, and moving forward together. This opera has winds of change swirling around and through it, and it’s one you must see. This young composer is someone to watch."
(Sherri Rase, [Q]onStage)
At 22 years of age, Mohammed can demonstrate familiarity with the complete canon of western music from Monteverdi to Elliott Carter. From an early age Mohammed has been in training to become a composer. At 6 years hundreds of exercises in species counterpoint… One can see evidence of this background in his present compositions.”
(Malcolm Peyton, Professor of Composition, New England Conservatory of Music)
SELECTED LIST OF WORKS
Sumeida’s Song (2009), 65minutes
Opera in three Acts. Sop, Mezzo, Tenor, Lyric Bar and orchestra
Symphony No. 1 “Symphonic Aphorisms” (2007), 20 minutes
Symphony No. 2 (2009), 17 minutes
Double Concerto “States of Fantasy” (2010) solo violin, cello and orchestra, 25 minutes
Symphony No. 3 “Poems and Prayers” (2010) mezzo-soprano, baritone, mixed choir, children’s choir and orchestra, 70 minutes
Tahrir (2011) solo clarinet and orchestra, 10 minutes
Chamber Music With Voice
Panoptican (2004) tenor and piano, 4 minutes
Canto (2005) string quartet and piano, 6 minutes
Cello Sonata (2005) cello and piano, 15 minutes
Four Haiku (2006) tenor and piano, 7 minutes
Bonsai Journal Txt by Judson Evans (2007) soprano and piano, 20 minutes
I Fanfare, II nocturne, III interlude, IV Chorale: Meditation, V March :Burlesque, VI Interlude#2, VII Caprice, VIII Aria, IX Impromptu, X Pastorale
Tahwidah Txt by Mahmoud Darwish(2008) soprano and clarinet, 7 minutes
After the Revels Txt by Ibn Shuhayd (2009) baritone and piano, 4 minutes
We are Seven (2009) baritone and piano, 7 minutes
Furia (2010) baritone, wind quintet, string quartet, 35 minutes
I The Birth of Light (txt by Romano de Sant’anna trans Lloyd Schwartz, II The Poet Declares his renown (Jorge Luis Borges), III The Ballad of the King’s Mercy (txt by Rudyard Kipling)
Jeder Mensch Txt by Alma Mahler (2010) mezzo and piano, 8.5 minutes
No Orpheus Txt by Lloyd Schwartz (2010) contralto and cello, 14 minutes
Rubiyaat Txt by Omar Khayyam (2010) tenor, flute, cello and piano, 7 minutes
Three fragments of Ibn Khafajah (2010) soprano, flute, guitar, violin and cello, 10 minutes
Instrumental Chamber Music
Elegy for Edward Said (2003) violin and cello, 4 minutes
Elegy for David Diamond (2005) violin and cello, 5 minutes
Elegy for Naguib Mahfouz (2006) violin and cello, 3 minutes
Four Critical Models* alto sax and violin, 14 minutes
I Catchword: A Modernists Dilemma, II Intervention: Une Musique Informelle, III Catchword: An Oriental(ist) Model, IV Intervention: A Dialectical Synthesis
Litany (2007)* flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and contra bassoon 6 minutes
Lamentation and Satire (2008)* string quartet 10 minutes
Three Novelettes for Piano and Alto Sax (2008)*, 14 minutes
Kalas (2009) cello and viola, 11 minutes
Chorale Fantasy (2010) string quartet, 8 minutes
*Featured with Piano Miniatures and Airs for Guitar on the Album Critical Models (Sono Luminus 2011)