From harp and flute to Beethoven

Ati Metwaly, Sunday 19 Dec 2010

Cairo Symphony Orchestra invites Egyptian audiences to listen to the beloved works of Mozart and Beethoven at Cairo Opera House and Alexandria Opera House

Ines Abdel Daim and Carrol McLaughlin

On 18 December another weekly concert of the Cairo Symphony Orchestra was held at the Cairo Opera House Main Hall. From the classical era to Romanticism, the programme included Mozart’s Overture to The Magic Flute, followed by his Concerto for Flute, Harp and Orchestra in C Major (K. 299). The evening concluded with Beethoven’s Symphony no. 5, a composition which attracts Egyptian audiences in particular.  

Marcello Mottadelli, who conducted the concert, is the Cairo Symphony Orchestra Principal Conductor for its third consecutive season. Since the beginning of this season, his presence has been limited so the 18 December concert can be considered as Mottadelli’s “come back” (his first concert with the Cairo Symphony Orchestra this season took place last week, on 11 December). Moreover, it was a surprise – and a delight – to see Mottadelli, whose turtleneck shirt became almost his hallmark, finally dressed in a classical tuxedo.

Beloved by the audience

After a lovely Overture to The Magic Flute by Mozart, a piece beloved by the audience, the orchestra welcomed two soloists: Ines Abdel Daim on flute and Carrol McLaughlin on harp, performing Mozart’s Concerto for Flute, Harp and Orchestra in C Major, with cadenzas composed by Karl-Hermann Pillney, an Austrian composer and arranger (1896-1980).

In spite of the fact that both flute and harp were among Mozart’s most hated instruments, he still managed to deliver a work of appealing beauty and captivating lyricism. Mozart was commissioned to compose the work in 1778, by the Count of Guines, an amateur flautist whose daughter played the harp. The concerto doesn’t require a large orchestra and its gallant style suited the Parisian salon audiences for whom it was composed.

Ines Abdel Daim is one of the most active and accomplished Egyptian artists. Her performance with McLaughlin was definitely a chance to showcase the skills of both musicians, which were especially apparent in all cadenzas, in each consecutive movement. Without a doubt, the dialogue which developed between Abdel Daim and McLaughlin carried lots of charming elements.

Best known work

The second half of the concert invited the audience to Beethoven’s Symphony no. 5.  To all audiences, of every generation and music preference, this symphony is not only one of the best known works of the composer, it is also a composition frequently performed by orchestras around the world. Likewise, the Cairo Symphony Orchestra has performed this work several times over the last few years.

Mottadelli himself conducted it last April.  A year earlier – in April 2009 – the Cairo Symphony Orchestra included Beethoven’s 5th in one of their most memorable concerts conducted by Daniel Barenboim. Looking a few years back, we’ll find several conductors choosing this work in their concerts with the Cairo Symphony Orchestra: Ahmed El Saedi in March 2008, Balasz Koczar in January 2006, Hisham Gabr in February 2005.  

Egyptian audiences always come back to Beethoven’s 5th, and at the same time the frequency of its performances create an understanding of the composition by the orchestra. It follows that it should be easier for the conductor to add his vision and once again indulge the audiences in the glory of the composer. Beethoven’s grandeur has already endured unblemished for two centuries and his musical genius possibly will be never paralleled, yet at the same time – and because of that – for the conductors and the orchestras, his greatness can become a challenge.

Beethoven lives on

Conductors and orchestras have said a lot through their performances of the 5th. Mottadelli is possibly still searching for his interpretation. In the meanwhile, on Saturday, he seemed to follow Beethoven’s music, rather than lead the orchestra; and on his way he left several musical details under-developed.  

Nonetheless the audience was obviously delighted, a fact which only proves the power that the composer still holds over listeners. As such, Beethoven lives on, and only chosen performances of his Symphony No. 5 will remain on the pages of history. Saturday’s concert was not among them.


The concert will be performed at theAlexandria Opera House (Sayed Darwish Theater) tonight, 19 December at 8pm.

Ines Abdel Daim graduated from the Cairo Conservatory, and pursued her studies in France, where she obtained a doctorate from the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris. Abdel Daim received several local and international awards and recognitions, including a prestigious 2001 State Prize in Arts (Egypt). She represented Egypt in a variety of international festivals, toured many countries, gave master classes in Syria, and appeared on radio and TV programmes in Egypt and France. In the years 2004-2010, she was the Dean of the Cairo Conservatory, since 2003 she is a director of the Cairo Symphony Orchestra, and recently became the vice-President of the Cairo Academy of Arts.

Carrol McLaughlin, holds a doctorate degree from Julliard School and in 2007 she was a Fulbright Specialist at the Cairo Conservatory. Currently McLaughlin is a professor of harp at the University of Arizona. She has given many performances in renowned halls worldwide with well-known orchestras. She is also a prolific composer and author: and has published several books as well as recorded a number of CDs. In parallel to her classical music knowledge, McLaughlin has also a great deal of  experience in performing jazz and pop repertoire arranged for the harp.

During her visit to Cairo, Carrol McLaughlin will also hold a lecture at the Supreme Council of Culture, Opera Grounds, on 20 December at 7 pm, specifically designed to assist musicians and performers. The lecture will address topics on clearing negative learning and past experiences, while building self-confidence. 

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