Biography

Mohammed Fairouz grew up in the USA in a family with Arab roots and studied composition with György Ligeti, John Heiss, Gunther Schuller, Halim El-Dabh and Richard Danielpour. He lives and works in New York City. He connects his own work with the philosophical aspiration of giving music a socially relevant meaning, something he would like to be understood as an extension of the socio-cultural horizon in today’s mostly cosmopolitan society. An important source of his inspiration lies in his own family background, where classical Oriental culture was nurtured. As a boy, Fairouz listened to legendary singers such as Umm Kulthum and Fairouz (not related), as much as to Beethoven and Mozart. Today, as one of the most frequently performed composers of his generation in the USA, the 27-year-old composer reaches a large audience with his message. The fact that he perfectly embodies the zeitgeist is substantiated by the many premieres, commissions and awards that he has received.

Fairouz effortlessly masters the balancing act that composers of the 21st Century must face. His individual musical language goes far beyond the concept of “crossover”. Fairouz skilfully weaves traditional Oriental instruments, scales and rhythms together with musical quotations from Western art culture. Yet, with a compositional technique that can certainly be described as traditional, he never drifts into the folkloristic. Lyrical settings of verses of well-known poets, including William Wordsworth and Omar Khayyám, Alma Mahler and Else Lasker-Schüler, or of the Palestinian Mahmoud Darwisch and the American Judson Evans, have already earned him the reputation of a “modern Schubert”, the composer who placed likewise as much importance on the one, supporting singing line in his Lieder. In Mohammed Fairouz’s eyes, this is perfectly in keeping with the Oriental tradition.



When the Egyptian writer and one of the leading intellectuals of the Arabic speaking hemisphere Nagib Mahfouz, winner of the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature, passed away in 2006, Mohammed Fairouz dedicated the “Elegy for Naguib Mahfouz” for violin and cello to him. As he followed the uprising of the Egyptian Democracy Movement on Tahrir Square in Cairo in the spring of 2011 on television, he composed the extraordinarily powerful clarinet concerto “Tahrir” which is dedicated to the soloist David Krakauer. As a matter of course, he includes Jewish sound elements in the work alongside the Arabic and thus shows how he musically imagines a spiritually open world:

 “We have no other option than to live in a cosmopolitan world. To be part of it, a voice embedded in a large choir, has become much more attractive today – because by now, we can arrive anywhere from A to B within 24 hours. In another time, in another world, this wasn’t possible and that already says everything. Mahler had to convert to Catholicism in order to assume his position at the State Opera in Vienna. Isn’t that weird? We’ve moved on from that long ago. This is also being reflected more and more culturally and compositionally. The hope of the 21st Century consists in forming a world in which these borders slowly dissolve, the musical as well as the physical borders.” (Mohammed Fairouz, 2012)

For a young composer, Mohammed Fairouz’s oeuvre is as remarkable as it is extensive, encompassing approximately 100 songs, some accompanied by chamber ensemble, some for voice accompanied by only one instrument; 5 symphonies for large orchestra, solo instrument and choir; piano pieces, works for ensemble, and an opera. In April 2012, he celebrated his debut at Zankel Hall, the recent addition to the renowned Carnegie Hall in New York, with the premiere of the opera “Sumeida’s Song”. And he is already working on his second.

In the fall of 2011, the album “Critical Models”, dedicated exclusively to the chamber music of Fairouz was released by the US label Sono Luminus. In January 2012, the album “Five Borough Songbook” was released by GPR with his song “Refugee Blues” which reached a sensational 12th place in the ‘Billboard Traditional Classical Charts’. The label Naxos is also working with him on a CD release.
In 2011 and 2012, Fairouz had six premieres: the Piano Sonata No. 2 “The Last Resistance”, a wind quintet “Jebel Lebnan”, a clarinet quintet, the choral work “Anything Can Happen”, and his 3rd Symphony “Poems and Prayers”. Among the many ensembles and soloists who will be performing his works this season are the internationally renowned clarinetist David Krakauer and the American star violinist Rachel Barton Pine.

Mohammed Fairouz teaches on the faculty of Northeastern University in Boston. In the summer of 2012, he will be Composer in Residence with the Imani Winds Chamber Music Festival at the renowned Juilliard School for Dance, Drama and Music in New York.


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