Wednesday, December 12th, 2007
Not everyone immediately associates the Orient with symphonic music. The assumption is simply too strong that it is a feature of Western culture.
Two concerts this late summer offered the opportunity for an East-West synthesis.
Young Euro Classic, a well-established summer festival featuring young orchestras not exclusively from Europe, presented the Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra. It was a pleasurable experience, not only for the ear, but also for the eye. Under the baton of the British conductor Simon Wright, the orchestra performed Shostakovich’s festive Overture op. 96 A-minor, more or less to set a European mood. The Lebanese Marcel Khalife played the solo for the Oriental short-necked lute, the oud, in the Suite for Oud and Orchestra, one of his own compositions. The Moors in Spain developed oud playing into an art in the early 8th century and the Crusaders later spread it further across the mainland. The instrument dates back to related versions of the lute of the Sumerians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans.
A work for the Indian violin and orchestra was performed with great élan by soloists and the composer, Dr. Subramaniam, followed by the German premiere of The Blessed Renaissance, a trip in time from the ascension to the throne of H. M. Sultan Qaboos up to the present, a composition by Hamdan Al Shuaily.
H. M. Sultan Qaboos initiated the forming of the Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra in 1985. According to the program, only “sons and daughters of the desert” are accepted into the orchestra. They live in a boarding school in which they are given an intensive musical training along side regular studies, mostly by British teachers. About 30% of the orchestra was noticeably female. Their clothing, typical of their country – in the colors of Oman, a bold green and red – provided a feast for the eyes along with the music.
A colorful orchestra from Oman obviously arouses curiosity; the concert hall was sold out, the applause unflagging, and the response in the Berlin press considerable.
The next musical connection between Orient and Occident was a few weeks later when the Cairo Conservatory of Music Orchestra, together with the RIAS Youth Orchestra, presented Beethoven of the Nile in the large studio of Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg sponsored by Deutsche Welle. Both orchestras played selections from Ludwig van Beethoven’s 2nd Symphony under the direction of the principle conductor of the German Symphony Orchestra Berlin, Ingo Metzmacher.
Previous to that, Ivan Filev conducted the Berlin premiere of Entizar, a work for lute, riq (an Arab tambourine drum) and orchestra. The piece was written by the Egyptian composer Mohamed Basha and commissioned by the Deutsche Welle.
The audience here also demonstrated a great enthusiasm for East-West harmony.