MOHAMMED FAIROUZ: Follow, Poet – Kate Lindsay, mezzo/Paul Muldoon, spoken word/Ensemble LPR/ Evan Rogister – DGG (1/27/15) 55:20 ****:
I have followed the work of the brilliant young New York-based composer Mohammed Fairouz for some time now and, I must say, his music never ceases to surprise me and, often, move me. His style is very personal and draws upon his heritage and upbringing as an Arab-American with sounds and emotions that speak to the rich, but often troubled, cultures of both the Middle East as well as America. This dichotomy, in fact, serves as the backdrop to the present blend of spoken word and vocal work, Follow, Poet.
The vocal works on this album, Audenesque and Sadat, each address the power of language through different means: one from the pen of a poet and the other from the oratory of the assassinated Egyptian leader, Anwar Sadat. Fairouz uses verses by the great 20th-century English poet W.H. Auden and the late Nobel Prize-winning Irish poet Seamus Heaney and pairs these against Sadat, an instrumental work that pays homage to the late great leader. (In conversations with the composer, I share his view that Sadat was, perhaps, the great hope for peace in the region and who – like Kennedy – never got to complete his mission) There are fragments of spoken word by John F. Kennedy from one of his lesser-known speeches. Kennedy, at a crucial, inspirational moment extolls the power of words to raise humanity to its best self.
Interestingly, DGG is billing Follow, Poet as the inaugural release for a new series of recordings titled “Return to Language”, which will continue to explore the blending of words and music. The series was conceived by Universal Music Classics president/CEO Elizabeth Sobol, a long-time proponent of the spoken word as a listening art similar to music. This release makes me look forward to what comes next.
As good as the reading by Irish poet Paul Muldoon is and as inspirational; sad and uplifting, simultaneously, the words by Kennedy, Heaney and Auden are; this piece moves and inspires on the strength of the music. Fairouz’s score succeeds on every level. Kate Lindsey is a terrific singer and brings a true poignancy to Audenesque that will stay with you for a long time. In Sadat, Fairouz uses all his trademark “tools” of orchestration and tone to convey the promise of Sadat’s leadership and the shock and grief that came with his murder.
I have become well acquainted with the music of Mohammed Fairouz and have corresponded with him on occasion. I must say I find him to be a major young talent who, unlike many composers, has a defining voice that will help to make his works recognizably – and admirably – his own. Additionally, I find him to be a very nice person who always answers questions and seems to genuinely appreciate his success and his audience.
If you have never heard any of his music, this disc is – in many ways – a perfect introduction; it is simply beautiful in many places. I look forward to more from this amazing young voice; the youngest composer to ever get a recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon, by the way. [We’ve searched, and this CD seems to have no order number at all…Ed.]