Apr 03 2008

5th Festival Finale with Hiba Al Kawas, Jose Maria Gallardo del Rey and the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra

5th Festival Finale with Hiba Al Kawas, Jose Maria Gallardo del Rey and the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra
Abu Dhabi, UAE: Alas, all good things must come to an end, or so the saying goes. Over the last twelve nights the Capital was awash with visitors from far away and from closer to home. Some of these visitors were here to perform; some were here to enjoy the music. And enjoy the music they did. The Finale night of the 5th Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Festival took place, as usual, at the Auditorium of the beautiful Emirates Palace hotel playing to a full house of music lovers and in the presence of HH Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Mrs. Nazek Al Harriri (wife of the late Lebanese PM, Rafic Al Hariri) and the Lebanese Minister for Telecommunications, Mr. Marwan Hamadeh, the Spanish Ambassador, Manuel Piniero, and many other distinguished guests and diplomats.

From Lebanon, a country of beauty and complexity comes Hiba Al Kawas, quite literally the "Musical tour de force". Hiba has a Masters Degree in operatic chant and in music composition, and was awarded a scholarship by the Academia di Chiggiana di Sienna, Italy, where she undertook further studies in opera singing and composition. This can be heard throughout her repertoire using Western opera technical methodology at voice projection that is quite unlike any other Arab performer. The result of which is a very, very fine, clear, yet immensely resilient ability at reaching and maintaining highs again and again.

Hiba also enjoys a remarkable ability at creating music, for she is a composer. She composed 14 of the 17 works of the Finale ranging from the delicate gentle melody of the encore to the complex layering of her powerful symphonic poem. That the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra was able to perform perfectly such a wide range of musical thematic styles is the absolute tribute to their technical abilities, ably conducted by Polish Maestro, Wojciech Czepiel.

The concert featured 5 world premieres "Nujoom Al Dunia Biinaik" a romantic melody that features the poetry of Nada El Hage and a solo of Spanish Guitar which was performed ably by Jose Maria and complemented by a wonderful orchestral theme. This work highlighted Hiba's incredible vocal abilities with her pulling and maintaining very high notes and repeating it again and again.

The second, "Asra Biqalbi" is based on the powerful poetry of Saudi poet Abdul Aziz Khoja and in which Hiba again repeats the verses again and again in different keys, emphasizing different parts of the verse, which conveys subtle differences in the meaning yet easily piercing the heart to touch the listener's emotional soul at its core. Hiba's voice builds up to a pace and slows down again, seemingly spent only to regenerate and explode into a frenzy of aural passion.

The symphonic poem "In the Path of Light" is a work dedicated to HE Hoda Kanoo, the founder of both the Festival and ADMAF, commenced the second part of the concert, in a shock drum and trumpet start that warned the listener that this was serious music. A very complex piece with many layers, "In the Path of Light" seemed to be inspired by the Shostakovich "dynamo" style of Soviet music with very, very powerful parts interlaced by more moody, darker, "stormy" periods. Beneath the seemingly endless clashes of the drums and trumpets, a bit like a stormy sea crashing against the solid rock of a mountain, lay a softer Arab themed melody, championed only by the strings, that patiently tries to emerge only to be beaten back by the endless sea. At times, the other sections of the orchestra take up the melody as if trying to communicate with itself, only to reject it forcefully and repeat its own thunderous message. The piece ends almost as abruptly as it begins, leaving a shocked audience to ponder the meaning of it all. A fittingly thunderous applause followed as if to retort to the thunder of the piece itself. Powerful stuff this.

"Habibi" was the second work featuring the poetry of Saudi poet Abdul Aziz Khoja in a rich, uplifting piece that was very much in parallel style to the earlier one, with Hiba repeating verses in true Arabic poetic style.

"Sawti Assama'" commences with an introduction on guitar by Jose Maria as if the guitar speaks with the orchestra. The swoony, relaxed style of the piece is more Western than others giving Hiba the opportunity to sing at a slower, more leisurely pace complemented beautifully by the guitar and the Orchestra. Suddenly, Hiba catches fire and takes us again to the edge, but then allows us to return to a more calmer pace.

Spanish guitar master, Jose Maria Del Rey, beautifully performed the second movement from Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez", an Adagio. This was a classic that was greatly appreciated by everyone. Jose Maria also presented two solo guitar pieces. The first "Rosales", inspired by a walk along the Rosales park in Madrid, has roots in classical guitar, hinting at times at Flamenco, but is a contemporary work that mirrors Spain, a modern country proud of its heritage and historical roots. The second "Aires de Sevilla" is another contemporary solo piece for the guitar comprised of three parts. The first part transports you to modern Seville with a mix of contemporary, hinting at flamenco roots. In the second part the guitar seemingly commences a dialogue, almost as if it was talking to the listener, telling him about the history of the city, hinting at its Arab history at times. The last part brings us up to date being in a much faster contemporary style and beat.

The Orchestra also performed the first and second movement of Hiba's Pleusis no. 1, a work dedicated to Mrs. Nazek Al Hariri.


© Press Release 2008

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