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Grego Applegate Edwards
Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review, October 2013

Six varied works…are represented on the disk. “Litany” for double bass and wind quartet, “Four Critical Models” for alto sax and violin, “Piano Miniatures,” “Lamentation and Satire” for string quartet, “Three Novelettes” for piano and alto sax, and “Airs” for solo guitar.

They show a mature, expressively communicative style, engaging in advanced chromatic harmony much of the time but also drawing on tonality only to transform it and reconstruct it in very interesting ways…

You are left, after hearing this recording the first or fifth time, with the feeling that you have heard an original voice. The performances by all concerned are excellent. Maestro Fairouz is a phenomenon. Recommended. © 2013 Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review Read complete review

MusicWeb International, July 2012

The four Airs for guitar are convivial tonal pieces that evoke, in Fairouz’s words, Dowland and Andalusia. The last brief toccata is a tribute to Britten’s classic Nocturnal after John Dowland. Lamentation and Satire is a vivid, arresting diptych for string quartet in which Fairouz comments on the political turmoil in the Middle East. The listener gets an abundance of ominously sombre colourings and feisty dissonant passages…

The six Piano Miniatures…are a motley collection of catchy, witty pieces that could almost have been written a century earlier. They cover and blend many different styles.

The two remaining works pair the alto saxophone with piano and violin respectively. Three Novelettes is more or less a three-movement sonata, with contrasting moods and tempi. It radiates a fairly tuneful disposition. Suffice to say that the music is highly imaginative, with Fairouz applying a raft of styles to colourful and memorable effect.

Sound quality is very good. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Sherri Rase, March 2012

“Critical Models” is Mohammed Fairouz’s latest release on Sonos Luminus and the selections on it are a delicious sample of the composer’s work in various media, from small string and orchestral groupings to airs for guitar. Each piece invites a different sort of attention.

“Litany” takes inspiration from the Azan, the call to prayer that varies from Muezzin to Muezzin, or leader, based on location. Very distinct and happening at five times throughout the day, this combines the melody of the Azan with the awakening of the town where it occurs, according to the composer. It is very easy to imagine an Arab-esque “Handel in the Strand.”

“Four Critical Models” takes us in a very different direction. What the composer calls catchwords and interventions alternate, and the catchwords are characterized by a frenetic energy, with a bit of reality interjected in the accompanying intervention. First, “A Modernist’s ‘Dilemma’” is an aural pun, in which modern classical music is sent up for its laborious self-consciousness and showy virtuosity, causing wonder at how it must be notated–what comes after “hemi-demi-semi-quaver?” The related intervention is “Une Musique Informelle,” a more contemplative piece, which is more spare and moves more lightly on its feet, evoking a thoughtfulness that is a large contrast to the piece before. “An Oriental(ist) Model” is the third piece and takes the stereotypical notion of what might be a Middle Eastern sound, but bears the resemblance that a cartoon does to an oil painting in realizing the actual timbre of the region. The fourth work, “A Dialectical Synthesis,” uses string and saxophone technique literally to bend the sound to the composer and musicians’ will, while bringing more of what the composer has experienced as a more realistic understanding of what a visitor would actually hear rather than a floridly imagined overabundance of clichés.

The next series is a set of “Piano Miniatures” beginning with “Nocturnal Snapshot” and ending with “Addio.” These pieces are minor-key, bittersweet works that sound like they would be as interesting for the pianist to play as for us to listen. There seems to be a bit of Brahms and you’ll hear as well what seem like quotes à la Chopin, the Romantics, the Classicals and the Neo-Classic, as well as Baroque throughout—delightful!

Next, “Lamentation and Satire” is written for string quartet and consists of two movements that flow into one another. “Lamentation” permits each instrument to establish its own voice, then embarks on first duets, then culminates in all voices, then is linked with “Satire” by a stark single line, which then progresses into what sounds like a sharp altercation. Is this arch conversation? sarcasm? Fairouz sees “Lamentation and Satire” as a dark view of what is happening presently in the Middle East. Dissonance clashes as ideologies clash. This is a technically and aurally difficult piece, but when the world has gone awry, music follows.

“Three Novelettes” is a perfect contrast to the previous pieces. This grouping is set for alto saxophone and piano, an unusual pair to be sure. “Cadenzas” shows a sense of humor, almost Klezmer-esque but also questioning. “Serenade” has an evening feel to it, where each instrument has its own phrases, but there is no conversation early on. Later, they do finally come together, but they add grace notes of their own, while the other instrument speaks … almost like when we have thoughts while someone else is speaking, thoughts that are unrelated to the conversation, so there is really no communication going on. Fairouz calls these pieces “a commentary on relationships” and the final piece, “Dance Montage,” pays homage to some very familiar theatrical composers, as the parties to the relationship come back together after their estrangement in a joy that hearkens to a bit of “Sweet Charity” with a bit of a Latin lilt–you’ll hear some favorite influences. Returning to one another, life is good once again.

Finally, come the four “Airs.” Contemporary music for the guitar is not so common, and as well as Fairouz writes for so many voices–instrumental and human–this writing for guitar is virtuosic and moving. The “Prelude” is very short, but sets the tone and the ear for the delights of the “Fantasy”–smooth but with an undercurrent of energy, it is a conversation—whether with oneself or with another is difficult to say. “Intermezzo” sounds almost angry as it uses the hand to deliver blows of harmonic resonance, which alternate with lyrical passages that shape the invitation to know more. Finally, “Toccata” is Fairouz’s avowed homage to Benjamin Britten’s “Nocturnal,” a renowned guitar piece for a soloist. “Nocturnal” is not quoted directly, but Fairouz wanted the feeling to be of someone dismantling the Britten piece and then reassembling it without the benefit of the directions. It is thoughtful, contemporary and, if you play, will encourage you to pick up your guitar again. At the very least, you’ll search out the Britten in your collection or online for the frisson of emotion at the connection with “Toccata.”

Spend an hour with this composer, with “Critical Models.” Lovers of modern classical music will have much to chew upon and, if musicians are interested in an addition to the repertoire, Fairouz music is published by Peermusic Classical. Each section is so different that you’ll feel you’ve traveled a great distance, while going no further than where you sit. © 2012

Joshua Kosman
San Francisco Chronicle, March 2012

At 26, the Arab American composer Mohammed Fairouz writes music that is sprightly and inventive, drawing on both Western and Eastern modes to forge a style that is winningly cosmopolitan. But alongside the charm and emotional urgency—and holding it back from full expression—there is a wealth of self-consciousness about process and style, as befits the composer of a piece titled “Four Critical Models.” That work, a clever but stylized suite for alto saxophone and violin, offers a catalog of approaches to art, from the airless abstractions of modernism (parodied here almost too perfectly) through Orientalism to a “dialectical synthesis.” The other ascetically scored chamber music includes a fanciful set of airs for solo guitar, a deftly funny suite of piano miniatures, and “Lamentation and Satire,” a fierce, abrasive string quartet splendidly performed by the Lydian String Quartet. All are dexterously crafted… The most urgently heartfelt—and most effective—piece here is the opening “Litany,” a fantasy on the Muslim call to prayer that is only about itself. © 2012 San Francisco Chronicle

Christian Carey, January 2012

Critical Models, a portrait CD featuring Fairouz’s chamber music, reflects a composer with a fertile mind and considerable technical acumen…[Fairouz’s] versatility is admirable… © 2012 Read complete review, December 2011

Arab-American composer Mohammed Fairouz is skilled in chamber music, too, as evidenced by a highly varied disc containing six of his works for various instrumental combinations. …Fairouz pays homage to Eastern music and contrasts it with Western classical forms, harmonies and designs, with the result that there is a certain element of exoticism to these works as well as a sense that they use their instrumental complements effectively. © 2011 Read complete review

WQXR (New York), December 2011

Q2 Music Album of the Week for December 6, 2011

There’s an embarrassment of riches on Critical Models, the debut solo album by 20-something composer Mohammed Fairouz. And yet the chamber nature of the record’s six pieces lends an unshakable sense of intoxicating intimacy.

A contemporary of Gabriel Kahane and Nico Muhly, Fairouz is a composer with an equally distinguished pedigree (he was one of Ligeti’s last students), but with a different brand of sound that replaces Muhly’s unabashed exuberance for introspective intensity and Kahane’s droll humor for incisive wit. Album opener Litany starts off with a whisper of flute, oboe and clarinet, before opening into a richly woven woodwind tapestry of neoclassical rhythms and unsettling fluid lines. The composition ends palindrome-like on the same subtle note that begins the four-and-a-half–minute work.

Litany sets the tone for an album that is a study in contrasts, full of setting and implied text that forms the basis to many of Fairouz’s works. Title work Four Critical Models careens between Fairouz’s dual identities as American and Middle Eastern, traditional and modern, with distinct references to Edward Said and his brand of orientalist studies (the captivating third movement, An Oriental Model, is most effectively schizophrenic).

Similar multiple identities abound in Piano Miniatures, which includes an homage to Philip Glass at his most kinetic as well as in the vaguely Jordi Savall-ian Airs (for Guitar). Both Four Critical Models and Three Novelettes (For Piano & Alto Saxophone), are strong saxophone features, exposing the instrument’s lyrical potential on par with the viola or cello. Taken on the whole, this album is a deluge, but one that’s as beguiling as snow in July. © 2011 WQXR (New York)

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