BECHARA EL-KHOURY (b 1957 )
"A powerfully committed new voice, this is a composer to be reckoned with."
--Ivan March, Gramophone Feb. 2003
A French-Lebanese composer and poet, Bechara El-Khoury was born on 18 March 1957 in Beirut. His artistic debut occurred very early on, but it was not until 1969 that he started serious music studies in Beirut under the direction of Agop Arslanian (piano, harmony, counterpoint, fugue and analysis), while still continuing advanced general studies. Between 1971 and 1973 he published three volumes of poetry. In 1973 he was choirmaster at the church of Saint Elias in Antelias near Beirut. He devoted himself at that time to composing works for choir and for orchestra.
In 1979 Bechara El-Khoury went to Paris to take advanced lessons in composition with Pierre-Petit (composition and orchestration). In 1983 the record company Erato released a two-record album exclusively of symphonic and concertante music by Bechara El-Khoury. This recording was made by the Orchestre Colonne conducted by Pierre Dervaux and the American pianist David Lively. In that same year, for the “Khalil Gibran Centenary”, a big, televised gala concert was organized in the Théâtre des Champs Élysées in Paris, during which the Orchestra Cologne, Pierre Dervaux and the Lebanese pianist Abdel Rahman El Bacha performed a complete programme of works by El-Khoury.
In 1985 he composed his Symphony Op. 37 “Les Ruines de Beyrouth” as a memorial of the war in Lebanon in 1975. In 1994 the L.B.C.I. (Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International), the premiere television channel of Lebanon, awarded him the Prize for Arts and Culture. In 1996 the record company Forlane re-released on two CDs the complete recording of his symphonic and concertante music performed by David Lively, Gérard Poulet, Abdel Rahman El Bacha and the Orchestre Cologne conducted by Pierre Dervaux. In that same year the first performance of his Sextet for Violins, commissioned by Shlomo Mintz for his master-classes, was filmed in Tel Aviv and shown publicly in 1997 at the Carnegie Hall in New York.
Since 1979 he has been living in Paris. He has been a jury member for exams at the École Normale Supérieure de Musique in Paris since 1980. In 2000 Bechara El-Khoury received the Prix Rossini of the Académie des Beau-Arts (Institut de France) and in 2001 was appointed Knight of the National Order of the Cedar of Lebanon. In 2002 Naxos recorded a CD entirely devoted to his symphonic music with the Ukraine National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Volodymyr Sirenko.
His catalogue includes some seventy works that have been performed in various venues, such as: Théâtre des Champs Élysées, Salle Pleyel, Théâtre du Châtelet, Radio France, Salle Cortot, Leighton House Museum, Kiev Philharmonia, Cairo Opera House, Noga Theatre of Tel Aviv, Israel Radio-Television, Grand Sérail in Beirut, Enescu Museum in Bucharest, etc., and they have been performed by many ensembles, including the Orchestre Colonne, the Orchestre Symphonique Français, the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, the Cairo Symphony Orchestra, and the Ukraine National Symphony Orchestra.
Some of his works have been commissioned by Radio France, Musique Nouvelle en Liberté, the Orchestre Symphonique Français, and the École Normale de Musique.
Interview with Bechara El-Khoury