This project inaugurates a new series by Deutsche Grammophon entitled Return to Language that apparently will focus not only on art song but on recordings that include spoken-word elements. The label could hardly have chosen a better composer for the debut release than Mohammed Fairouz, Arab American in background and ecumenical and pacifist in intent: he has set material of Israeli origin as well as that from the Arab world. Here the Arab experience is one component: Sadat (2013) is a gripping programmatic depiction of the terrible day in 1981 when Egyptian president and peacemaker Anwar Sadat was assassinated by members of the Muslim Brotherhood. That work serves as the linchpin between the albums' two themes, art and memory, and joins them together elegantly. The album opens with remarks by John F. Kennedy about poetry at Amherst College in October 1963, shortly before he, too, was killed, and there are further parts of that speech plus a reading by Paul Muldoon of W.H. Auden's "In Memory of W.B. Yeats," a poem also set in Fairouz's song cycle Audenesque (2012). Fairouz's style is serious but successful, somewhere between those of his teachers, Gunther Schuller and György Ligeti, and the likes of Kurt Weill. In Audenesque he works with mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey, for whom he has written much of his vocal music. This entire project comes together quite powerfully and will give rise to many reflections on the role of art in the current violent world.
Ensemble LPR / Mohammed Fairouz / Kate Lindsey / Paul Muldoon / Evan Rogister
Follow, Poet Review
by James Manheim