The concert will take place on 10 December at the grand Abu Bakr Salem Stage in Boulevard Riyadh City.
Preparing for the concert, Abbassi revealed that the event will feature works performed by Mohamed Abdel-Wahab (1902-1991), the prominent Egyptian singer, actor and composer – with a new arrangement for the big orchestra.
"Abdel-Wahab is known for music in film," Abbassi remarked to Ahram Online, "however, he also has many works that are not known to a wide audience, and they are not performed frequently.”
The conductor explained that the concert will be performed by the United Philharmonic Orchestra, a body founded by Abbassi a few years ago.
The event will include songs arranged for a grand orchestra alongside compositions that do not feature voices.
“Orchestra is at the core of the project, hence the name 'Abdel-Wahab Symphonic',” Abbassi explained adding that “many of the compositions do not have scores, so we write them from the beginning.”
Musicians such as Ahmed El-Mougi, Amir Gado and Mohamed El-Ashy, are involved in writing the music for the concert, embroidering them with a new musical concept “that would testify to Abdel-Wahab’s progressive mind,” as Abbassi put it.
The concert will feature Reham Abdel-Hakim and Loai, each performing four songs intercalated with four works for the orchestra only.
As such, the audience will be treated to Abdel-Hakim singing Maleesh Amal, Wasafoly Al-Sabr; Loai performing Ahwak, Ashanak Ya Amar, among other songs.
Both singers will present a duet Ya Dee Al-Naeem.
The instrumental segments will feature trilogy Al-Gandour, Karnak and Cleopatra, Doaa Al-Sharq, Aziza, Asheq Al-Roh, among others.
“Both singers have great voices,” the conductor said, stressing that Loai “has this especially unique timbre, very delicate and emotional. He is not sufficiently recognised and it is time to give him space with the big orchestra.”
Abbassi said that the Abdel-Wahab Symphonic was not prepared specifically for the Saudi cultural festival, but it nonetheless presents an opportunity to launch it.
The maestro explained that the impetus for paying what he describes as “symphonic justice” to Abdel-Wahab came from the musician’s grandchildren.
“They asked me if I would be willing to take this task on my shoulders; of course I found it very interesting. They were very open to all creative suggestions. We have been working for a year now, at first without specific plans regarding the premiere’s location. Then the Riyadh Season came, giving us an opportunity to launch the project.”
After premiering in Riyadh, Abbassi said he hopes to perform the project elsewhere around the world, especially in European or Arab countries.
The maestro adds that he believes Abdel-Wahab Symphonic will give justice to this great singer and composer, and his music in a new and unique way.
“We will see the audience’s reaction to the new orchestration of this size. The United Philharmonic is a great platform for this endeavour.”
Abbassi’s orchestra has attracted the attention of local and international media when it performed during the Pharaohs Golden Parade (April 2021), which celebrated the transfer of mummies from the Egyptian Museum of Cairo in Tahrir square to the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC) in old Cairo.
The orchestra also participated in the grand concert during the reopening of the 3000-year-old Avenue of the Sphinxes in Luxor (November 2021).
The United Philharmonic has also accompanied the well known Arab singers, such as the Lebanese soprano Majida El Roumi.
The orchestra is a melting pot of musicians from all walks of life, comprising those who work at the Cairo Symphony, Cairo Opera, Alexandria Opera Orchestras, Arabic Music Orchestra, in addition to independent formations.
“This is where we are united, with the artists representing a variety of musical cultures, playing many instruments including also traditional and rarely featured. The name of the United Philharmonic also gives us space to incorporate foreign musicians in possible upcoming appearances. This artistic unification allows me to incorporate all musical colors,” Abbassi clarifies.
This malleability, the maestro said, gives space to create an ensemble consisting of 60, 100 or even more musicians.
The Riyadh concert will feature 70 instrumentalists, including a number of known Arabic music soloists playing kanoun, oud, nay and accordion, fused into the orchestral lining.
“The concert will not include electronic instruments,” the maestro explained, “in some cases, where the original music features a guitar, it will be replaced with harp. I hope that all those efforts will contribute to the success of the event and give justice to the great Egyptian artist Abdel-Wahab.”