Egyptian conductor to premiere work with renowned Polish orchestra

Ahram Online, Wednesday 19 Feb 2014

Hisham Gabr, Egyptian composer and conductor, will conduct the Wroclaw Philharmonic Orchestra in Poland with programme that includes the premiere of his 'To a New World'

Hisham Gabr
Left: Hisham Gabr conducting Cairo Symphony Orchestra in October 2013 (Photo: Sherif Sonbol). Right: Morris columns (column-shaped advertising panels) on the sidewalks of Wroclaw, Poland, announcing Wroclaw Philharmonic Orchestra's concerts (Photo: courtesy of Hisham Gabr).

On 21 February, Egyptian composer and conductor Hisham Gabr will conduct the Wroclaw Philharmonic Orchestra (WPO) in Wroclaw, Poland, in a programme that will include the premiere of his own work 'To a New World.'

The full programme will include Rossini's overture 'L'italiana in Algeri' (The Italian Girl in Algiers), Hisham Gabr's sinfonia concertante for oud, guitar and orchestra 'To a New World,' and Rimsky-Korsakov's 'Scheherazade.'

The Wroclaw Philharmonic notes to the concert explain that the evening will include two cultures, two different worlds: the Orient as seen by leading European composers Gioachino Antonio Rossini and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and the Orient as expressed in its own voice, through Egyptian composer and conductor Hisham Gabr.

The concert will also feature Syrian Philadelphia-based oud virtuoso Kenan Adnawi and Polish renowned guitarist Krzysztof Pełech, performing in the sinfonia.

In the programme notes, Gabr explains the sinfonia to be "a dialogue between the oud (the Arabic lute) and guitar: two different instruments that – exactly like our two cultures – originate from the same ancestor. The composition does not aim at exploring new sounds and new colours of music, but rather searches for common grounds between our two musical languages. Consequently, 'To a New World' looks at what the world of classical music would sound like had our two civilisations listened to each other's music and art more and fought less."

Gabr added to Ahram Online that his choice of sinfonia concertante as a musical form had specific reasons: "Contrary to the concerto form, the sinfonia is not written for the solo instrument but rather employs soloists to reach an idea. It is about the soloists' virtuosity, but also stress is placed on a concept of dialogue and how the soloists play opposite each other, together and against each other, reaching to and listening to one another."

This is not the first cooperation between Gabr and the WPO. The orchestra performed Gabr's music to Ibn Battuta in early 2013 in Bahrain

"I am very happy to work with the orchestra again and to premiere my composition with them. Wroclaw Philharmonic is a very good orchestra with many remarkable musicians throughout its sections. Adding to their fine music qualities, they are also enthusiastic and aim at reaching as much as possible from their expertise," Gabr told Ahram Online.

Born in 1972, Gabr is a contracted conductor at the Cairo Opera House. Besides his regular commitments as a conductor at the Cairo Opera, Gabr has been invited to conduct many international orchestras, such as the Macedonian Philharmonic Orchestra, the Astana Philharmonic Orchestra, the Lebanese Philharmonic Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra of Mexico, along other commitments with state orchestras in Kazakhstan and Oman.

Gabr's biography includes composing music to numerous feature movies, documentaries, musicals and theatre plays produced in Egypt and abroad. In 2003, his compositions were performed by the Cairo Symphony Orchestra and were acclaimed by both audiences and critics. Among his recent compositions is music to 'Praxa,' the first Egyptian musical, which premiered in July 2009 at the Cairo Opera House.

Since it's founding in 1954, the WPO has been and remains one of the leading orchestras in Poland. During recent years, under artistic director Jacek Kaspszyk, the WPO has attracted excellent players, performing alongside renowned soloists.

The orchestra presents over 50 projects a year within its season and continues recording and broadcasting activities. The WPO also regularly appears at Poland’s most important international festivals.

Over the years the orchestra has performed in renowned concert halls throughout the world, including the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Tonhalle in Zurich, Alice Tully Hall at the Lincoln Centre in New York, Philadelphia's Kimmel Centre, the Arsht Centre in Miami, the Musikverein in Vienna, the International Arts Centre in Antwerp, and the Festspielhaus in Salzburg, among other locations.

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