Stories » World premiere of new Mohammed Fairouz piece dazzles at Carenegie Hall / The National

Top 10 for Aug

World premiere of new Mohammed Fairouz piece dazzles at Carenegie Hall / The National

Bookmark and Share

It's a chilly night in New York City, the 36-hour-old snow yet to thaw in Central Park. Mohammed Fairouz puts down an icy drink and continues to talk, unravelling giddying monologue of literary references, political opinions and personal sleights which sound a markedly conspicuous note in the generically dim-lit lobby that surrounds him.

The Emirati composer should probably be celebrating – this particular Manhattan hotel sits just a few doors down from Carnegie Hall, where Fairouz's latest composition received its world premiere less than an hour earlier – but something weighs heavy in the air, and on his mind. Besides, Fairouz has lost count of the number of time his work has been performed at the storied concert venue, the scene of scores of historic premieres – such as Antonín Dvořák's landmark ninth symphony From the New World, first performed by the New York Philharmonic back in 1893.

Premiered on April 3, Fairouz's latest work strikes a somewhat humbler tone. Entitled Piano Miniature No 19, Jabal Hafit [COR for the piece title], the fidgety, solo piano piece was written barely a week earlier, atop the Al Ain mountain of the same name. Chillingly sparse, composed largely of single notes – either left eerily to ring out or struck staccato – and punctuated by gaping silences. A piece so simple it is hard to play, and harder still to listen to – it is easy to imagine wide-open desert and rugged mountains as an inspiration. "We were in Al Ain, we found a hotel up Jabal Hafit, this really wonderful kitschy hotel," remembers Fairouz. "We went up and were waiting for our grilled seafood platter, and I decided to write something. It was the view – you know Al Ain is really quite amazing, especially after a few days in Dubai – at first, it's like going up to a (different) county – but which country?" Photo by Samantha West