This past week saw the completion of my first string quartet (String Quartet No. 1 Shades of Night), which was commissioned by the Grand Teton Music Festival and where it will be premiered in early August. I will also be the first ever composer-in-residence at GTMF this coming summer and I’m very much looking forward to that as well. I’m also excited to announce that the Sphinx Virtuosi will tour in the fall with my Dabke for string orchestra. The tour includes a concert at Carnegie Hall. In a surprise (at least to me) announcement, the Minnesota Orchestra will be programming my Ramal for orchestra in their fall season. Details about all of the above here.
In early May I will travel to Berlin to oversee the recording of my Clarinet Concerto: Adrift on the Wine-dark Sea with clarinetist Kinan Azmeh and the Deutsches Symphony Orchestre. This project has been years in the making and I’m very much looking forward to this recording. A world-premiere is in the works for September of 2019 in Germany. More details on this soon.
It was an absolute pleasure to be in Chicago for the regional premiere of my ‘Ramal’ for orchestra which was performed by the Grant Park Music Festival Orchestra under Fawzi Haimor. Despite the very stormy weather earlier in the day, the clouds cleared and approximately 4000 people attended the concert that also featured music by Haydn and Hindemith. Read the Chicago Tribune review here and the Chicago Classical Review here.
Late winter (if it can be called a winter) and spring are shaping up nicely with a number of concerts coming up. March begins with the world premiere of my ‘Aleppo Songs’ for solo piano by Thomas Stumpf. This concert will take place at the beautiful Distler Hall in Boston on the campus of Tufts University. I’m very excited about this piece as it’s goals are to raise money (I’ll be donating all profits to MSF and other aid organizations working with refugees) and awareness (three of the five movements are based on urban folk melodies from Aleppo, one is based a Syriac hymn and the remaining is an original work).
March will also see the mid-Western premiere of my Abu Jmeel’s Daughter in St. Louis with Chamber Project St. Louis. I’m also very proud to have the Germany based Syrian Expat Philharmonic Orchestra give a second performance of my Dabke for string orchestra at the stunning new Elbephilharmonie Hall in Hamburg and the Belgian premiere of my Ramal for orchestra. The latter will be performed with the Belgian National Symphony.
In early May the European premiere of my Buhur for clarinet and string trio will take place at the new Pierre Boulez Hall in Berlin (with Kinan Azmeh on clarinet) as well as another German performance of Dabke by the Staats Theatre Kassel Orchestra in Kassel, Germany under the direction of Anja Bihlmaier.
On April 28th three of the top string quartets at the Royal Academy of Music in London will give the European premiere of my A Voice Exlcaiming for triple string quartet.
In June Kinan Azmeh will give the European premiere of my A Muffled Scream for clarinet and electronics at the Pierre Boulez Hall in Berlin.
In July, conductor Fawzi Haimor and the Grant Park Music Festival Orchestra will give the Chicago premiere of my Ramal for orchestra.
Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make all these concerts but I am every grateful for the interest in my work.
More concerts and details of upcoming performances are here.
Aleppo Songs for solo piano is a reflection on a number of urban folk songs from Aleppo, known as qudud, as well as original material. All profits from sheet music sales as well as royalties generated from 2016 – 2018 performances will be donated to Doctors Without Borders to support their work in the Middle East. Other aid organizations will also be considered as this is an ongoing project.
Aleppo Songs (2016)
Instrumentation: Solo piano
Duration ca. 15′
I. How beautiful the light of the rising sun
II. Antiochian hymn
III. Oh people, leave me to my sorrows
IV. The silenced guardian
V. That’s it! I intend to leave you
This work is currently in progress (very close to completion) but will be available in early 2017.
Watch here as pianist Riyad Nicolas gives an impromptu reading of this first page from the first movement of Aleppo Songs.
It was an absolute thrill to be at Abbey Road Studios this August working with the fantastic musicians of the Philharmonia Orchestra. We had two days of tracking for an album project that I am producing/composing/arranging whose details I will announce in 2017.
“Armenian Dances” for Orchestra
The Boston Landmarks Orchestra commissioned me to write a suite, based on traditional Armenian dances, for orchestra. The result was a 13 minute suite that was premiered on August 17th at the DCR Hatch Shell under maestro Chris Wilkins.
Boston Classical Review wrote “One of the most memorable pieces heard Wednesday night was Kareem Roustom’s Armenian Dances, which also received its world premiere… Roustom’s score is a charming and accessible collection of dances that brim with silky lyricism.” Read the full review here.
“Ramal” for Orchestra; US Premiere at the Grand Teton Music Festival
Maestro Donald Runnicles (music director at Deutsche Oper Berlin, Principal at BBC Scottish Symphony, Principal Guest Conductor at Atlanta Symphony, & Music Director at the Grand Teton Music Festival) gave the American premiere of my Ramal for orchestra, a work that was commissioned by Daniel Barenboim & the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in 2014. Maestro Runnicles and the GTMF Orchestra, made up from members of the Los Angeles Phil. Pittsburgh Symphony Dallas Phil. Atlanta Sym. Concertgebouw & a number of other esteemed orchestras, gave two performances of my Ramal to a packed Walk Festival Hall.
What’s behind this number? This is a page from my Armenian Dances; an arrangement of traditional dances from the Vasbouragan region of Armenia for the Landmarks Orchestra and Sayat Nova Dance Company. The parts and score finally were completed and delivered today; the same day that the German government recognizes the Armenian genocide. There are several dances in this movement and each is titled with only a number. The reason for this is not without insignificance. Vasbouragan was part of Western Armenia but is now part of Eastern Turkey. As I understand the history, during WWI there was a panic in Vasbouragan caused by rumors of an impending Ottoman attack. This caused a massive evacuation of the area, under Russian troops, which came to be know as “the great retreat.” Thousands died, at least 150,000 Armenians were displaced, and the region was lost to Turkey. According to a colleague, the titles of each of these dances in mvmt. II have been “erased” from history. No one seems to know what these pieces are called but the music has survived and is only known by the region it was from. Despite their very joyous sound, there is a dark history behind these dances. I’m humbled by the provenance of this music and I took special care with arranging it. I hope that you might come hear it and see the amazing Sayat Nova Dancers on August 17th at DCR Boston Hatch Shell.
I’m very excited to share the news that a fantastic recording of my new work “Embroidered Verses” for the Crossing Choir, directed by Donald Nally, and the Al-Bustan Takht, directed by Hanna Khoury, is now available here. This is a work that combines my love for the classical Arabic song & poetic form called muwashshahaat and for contemporary choral writing. Also, I’m told that it is one of the most challenge pieces written for a traditional takht (oud, qanun, hand percussion, violin, cello) ensemble. Don’t take my word for it, have a listen the second of four songs here: Qum Ya Nadim (Arise oh drinking companion) uses a well known muwshshah text that has already been set to music. However, I found the rhythms of the language to be very inspiring and I decided to set it against a 15/8 meter. The Crossing Choir sang it beautifully and the Al-Bustan Takht performed with passion and precision. If you like what you hear, the CD is available here.
I’m very honored, grateful and excited that maestro Donald Runnicles and the Grand Teton Festival Orchestra will give the premiere of my Ramal at the 2016 GTMF. Maestro Runnicles is the music director of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, where I recently heard him direct a very powerful performance of Lohengrin, the chief conductor at the BBC Scottish Symphony, the principal guest conductor at the Atlanta Symphony and the music director at the GTMF. Ramal was commissioned by Daniel Barenboim for the West-Eastern Divan and was premiered by that orchestra in 2014 Buenos Aires, the BBC Proms, the Lucerne Festival and the Salzburg Festival. In early 2015 the Malmo Opera orchestra gave the Swedish premiere. Ramal is dedicated to the memory of the late Edward Said.
Thank you to the Pew Arts & Heritage Trust for supporting the Words Adorned project which included the commissioning of my ‘Embroidered Verses’ for SATB & Arabic chamber group. Watch this insightful discussion between maestros Nally and Khoury here.