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Album Reviews

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Joshua Rosenblum
Opera News, November 2013

Mohammed Fairouz is well represented in this new collection of his recent works. The pieces herein…are good examples of the young Arab–American composer’s trademark integration of traditional Middle Eastern and contemporary Western musical languages. Tahwidah (Lullaby), for clarinet and soprano, begins with a virtuoso yet soulfully expressive display of extended instrumental techniques by the wizardly David Krakauer. He and the agile soprano Mellissa Hughes provide perfectly tuned intervals, their timbres blending in and out of each other’s with mournful synchronicity.

The remarkable baritone Chris Thompson, with fine accompaniment by pianist Steven Spooner, delivers a suave, nuanced and compelling performance of the songs in Posh

For Victims…based on poems by David Shapiro, is a memorial to victims of Nazi atrocities…Fairouz’s music is bleak yet beautiful, and full of riches. The cavernous baritone David Kravitz is especially good in his description of the little cantor with his “sweet tenor coloratura flautando” marching down the aisle of the synagogue.

The first movement of Jebel Lebnan (Mount Lebanon), for wind quintet (here, the vibrant Imani Winds), sounds like fresh, exuberant relief after the desolation of For Victims

In Native Informant—Sonata for Solo Violin, Fairouz displays intimate knowledge of the instrument, as well as an ability to sustain intensity and interest over the course of a five-movement, twenty-four-minute work with the limited color palette of a solo instrument. Rachel Barton Pine turns in a customarily impeccable performance of this attractively wide-ranging work. From all his diverse materials, Fairouz manages to concoct expressive pieces of a cosmopolitan bent. Listeners from all cultures will probably find themselves engaged and moved. © 2013 Opera News Read complete review

George Adams
American Record Guide, September 2013

The record is a fine sampling of a young, talented composer’s work. © 2013 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide

Ken Smith
Gramophone, August 2013

The title-piece, Native Informant, a 2011 sonata for solo violin (brilliantly rendered by Rachel Barton Pine), draws from sources as diverse as Arabic round dance and American cabaret. Chorale Fantasy…played here by the Borromeo Quartet, brilliantly marries Arabic maqam modality with the counterpoint of a Bach chorale.

The songs, too, cover much ground, with texts ranging from Wayne Koestenbaum’s Best-Selling Jewish Porn Films in Fairouz’s Posh…to his rather elegiac Tadwidah…In both cases, from the aptly dubbed ‘baritenor’ Christopher Thompson to soprano Melissa Hughes, the respective vocalism is supremely nuanced…the Arab-American Fairouz succeeds…by emphasising the elements that resonate best around him. © 2013 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Lynn René Bayley
Fanfare, July 2013

This exceptionally varied and complex album features five first recordings of works by young American-Arabic composer Mohammed Fairouz…

I was stunned…by the extraordinary range of colors that Pine extracts from her instrument, ranging from bright, sharply pointed passages…to warm, rich playing in the mid and lower ranges…

…I consider this one of the most interesting, varied, and engaging classical albums of the year so far, and one I shall undoubtedly be putting on my Want List. © 2013 Fanfare Read complete review

Chris Morgan
Scene Magazine, June 2013

…Fairouz is free of stylistic fetters, and has fully embraced the exotic beauty and the aesthetic possibilities that exist for composers today. In fact, frequent performances, commissions and recordings of Fairouz’s work may be the most salient proof that he is among the first artists of his generation to realize that the old divisions between east and west, traditional and modern, self-expression and social consciousness are no longer relevant. This recent release from Naxos is a fitting example of Fairouz’s ability to seamlessly blend a multiplicity of influences—from classical, early modern, jazz, Arabic, and eastern music—within profoundly resonant conceptual frameworks. Taken in its totality, this five-movement composition is an excellent demonstration of Fairouz’s musical ingenuity. © 2013 Scene Magazine Read complete review

John Terauds
Musical Toronto, May 2013

[In] the title piece, Native Informant…Rachel Barton Pine…gives it her all, really bringing the dramatically charged, largely tonal piece to life.

Another standout piece is a 6-minute 2010 Chorale Fantasy for string quartet, gorgeously rendered by the Borromeo String Quartet. Fairouz’s score is mesmerizing, taking full advantage of his four intertwined voices.

The Imani Winds make fine work of Jebel Lebnan

This album is a compelling portrait of an exceptional young talent ideally served by the best interpreters. © 2013 Musical Toronto Read complete review

Jay Batzner, May 2013

Overall, the music is focused and dramatic, emotively powerful, and full of rich harmonies and sumptuous melodies. Fairouz does wear his influences on his sleeve and his borrowings from the classical canon and Middle-Eastern traditions mix well into an authentic and unique voice. © 2013 Read complete review

Lewis Whittington, April 2013

Tahwidah is the opening track and gets jarringly right down to Fairouz’s themes. David Krakauer’s clarinet mournfully wends around soprano Mellissa Hughes’ vocal of poetry by Mahmoud Darwish. It is the words of a mother addressing her son’s grave, translated by the composer to English from Arabic. “If you’ll not be a rain, my love, then be a tree, drenched in fertility…” Hughes’ valiantly shrill vocal is just heartbreaking.

Lyric Sketch is an exquisitely baleful violin double by Rachel Barton Pine. Pine then snaps out of the torpor for the string Rounds that is just vibrant fiddler fanciful. On Lullaby of the Ex-Soldat we have a tragic evocation played with transcendence by Pine.

Delivering Fairouz’s raw editorial punches [in Bashir’s March] is the stellar woodwind ensemble Imani Winds. © 2013 Read complete review

John Clare
Texas Public Radio, April 2013

…fresh and vibrant, bringing a new sound to the 21st Century. © 2013 Texas Public Radio Read complete article

Steven Bergman
EDGE on the Net, April 2013

“Native Informant,” the Naxos American Classics’ new release of Fairouz’ compositions, shows an effective hybrid of influences, incorporating Fairouz’ international heritage with an accessibility that immediately engages the listener.

The anchor of this recording is the 24-minute title track, a sonata in five movements for solo violin, featuring the virtuoso playing of Rachel Barton Pine. “Native Informant” tells various tales through Pine’s amazing performance, from an “art song with secret lyrics” (“Lyric Sketch”) and an Arabic round (“Rounds”) to two historical perspectives (“For Egypt” and “Lullaby of the ex-Soldat”). Though the themes of the individual movements are separate, Pine’s passionate playing unifies them into an enticing work from this proficient soloist. © 2013 EDGE on the Net Read complete review

Daniel Coombs
Audiophile Audition, April 2013

This collection has a beautiful yet eerie feel to it throughout that sounds quite like he [Fairouz] has found his own unique style that blends “east and west”. Just the opening Tahwidah (Lullaby), featuring the amazing clarinet work of David Krakauer and soprano Mellisa Hughes, is enough to get you hooked with a love poem that ends shockingly when we discover who the singer is singing to. The beauty continues with the plaintive string quartet Chorale Fantasy but it is the title work Native Informant, a long, dramatic, difficult and intense sonata for unaccompanied violin that keeps you listening. This is a sad but hopeful work that takes its cue from the ironic, sad and regrettable tensions that presently exist from the composer’s native Muslim world and the rest of the world; he makes a compelling case through music to slow down and think. Rachel Barton Pine gives another incredible performance.

The music [For Victims] is relentless in its impact and baritone David Kravitz gives a stirring performance. This riveting collection ends with Jebel Lebnan (Mount Lebanon) for wind quintet.

Mohammed Fairouz writes music from a cross-cultural, political and humanitarian perspective. The subjects, like the music, are frequently intense and a bit difficult but his music is bold, compelling, more than a little attractive and important. This is a bright, talented and unique young composer whose work should be heard. I, for one, am going to listen again…This album is a great place to start for anyone unfamiliar with his work. Highly recommended! © 2013 Audiophile Audition Read complete review

Christian Carey, March 2013

Mohammed Fairouz’s music at its best embodies fetching lyricism and embraces an elegantly incorporated polyglot musical language…“Chorale Fantasy”…sets a deeply buried chorale texture against Middle Eastern melodies and flashes of Brodsky Quartet style third stream gestures. An intricate amalgam to be sure, but neither fussy nor overreaching. © 2013

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11:30:22 PM, 28 November 2015
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