Words and pictures from August 2016, a summer of orchestras: Philharmonia Orchestra at Abbey Road, Boston Landmarks Orchestra & Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra

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.

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From the Philharmonia Orchestra’s Twitter feed.
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Talking to the members of the Philharmonia Orchestra before our first session.
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Maestro Arturo Rodriguez conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra in Studio One at Abbey Road.
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With on orchestra that sounds this good, how can one not smile?
“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.

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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.
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A sold out Walk Festival Hall at the Grand Teton Music Festival before the performance of ‘Ramal’ for orchestra, Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto & the Rachmaninoff Symphony no. 2.
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With maestro Donald Runnicles at the closing party of the Grand Teton Music Festival.

Armenian Dances and the echoes of genocide

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. Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 10.12.03 AM

“Embroidered Verses” CD available now

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.

Donald Runnicles to give the US premiere of Ramal for orchestra @the 2016 Grand Teton Music Festival

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.

The performance will take place on August 19th and 20th.

Review of Philadelphia premiere of ‘Embroidered Verses’

This past Sunday, December 5th saw the world premiere of my ‘Embroidered Verses’ for The Crossing choir, under Donald Nally, and the Al-Bustan takht ensemble. It was a very special concert that featured another new work by composer Kinan Abou-Afach and the powerful and emotive voice of Dalal Abu Amneh. David Patrick Stearns described the evening as “West meets East on a lofty plateau” and wrote that “Roustom’s [Embroidered Verses] was particularly adept at sidestepping musical expectation with gestures that would suggest one direction and then hang a left.”  Read the full review here.

I’m also very happy to report that we made a studio recording of both new works, as well as an audio/video recording of the concert. A beautifully designed CD will be available Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture. More details available soon.



‘Tesserae’ for brass quintet to be premiered in Buenos Aires by the West-Eastern Divan Brass

My new work, ‘Tesserae’ for brass quintet, will be premiered on August 2nd in Buenos Aires by the West-Eastern Divan Brass quintet. The premiere will be followed by two more concerts on August 5th & 6th.

Centro Islámico República Argentina / Avenida San Juan 3053.
Domingo 2 de agosto a las 20:30 horas.
Concierto de cámara. Duración aproximada 45’.
Quinteto de metales de la Orquesta West – Eastern Divan

Templo Libertad / Libertad 769.
Miércoles 5 de agosto a las 19:30 horas.
Concierto de cámara. Duración aproximada 45’.
Quinteto de metales de la Orquesta West – Eastern Divan

Catedral Metropolitana / Avenida Rivadavia y San Martín.
Jueves 6 de agosto a las 19:30 horas.
Concierto de cámara. Duración aproximada 45’.
Quinteto de metales de la Orquesta West – Eastern Divan

Programa Musical Conciertos por la Convivencia
(Será el mismo para las tres presentaciones)

Mini Overture, de W. Lutoslawski
Contrapunctus I., de J.S Bach
Locus Iste, de A. Bruckner
Rondo for brass quintet, de Lior Shambadal
Tesserae for brass quintet, de Kareem Roustom
Monunmental Etude, de Steven Verhelst
Kleiner Zirkusmarsch, de Jan Koetsier
Suite Americana, de Enrique Crespo
Estampas de Palermo, de José Carli

More details Details here.