Posted on February 18, 2012

Commemorating the first anniversary of the Arab Spring, the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra yesterday performed the world premiere of The Return Symphony, a piece composed by UNESCO Artist for Peace and oud player, singer and composer Marcel Khalifé.

Bachar Khalife

Khalifé performed side-by-side with his sons Bachar and Rami, the first time the artist sang with a full orchestra. The concert, the first of three, took place in the recently inaugurated Opera House in Katara, the cultural heart of Qatar’s capital city of Doha.

The concert melded Arabic and Western musical traditions, with the first half comprised of a purely instrumental symphony in four movements. The second half returned to Arabic tradition in combining music with the spoken word. Some of Khalifé’s own popular songs with texts of modern Arab poets were chosen specifically for this series of performances.

Rami Khalife

Khalifé, as an artist, has always been committed to humanitarian issues and has constantly sought liberation against tyranny through his music: “I believe wholeheartedly that music can change this world for the better, easing pain, misery and conflict. Music has an astounding capacity to stir human emotions and I try to share with the listener the sense of joy that is accessible through music.”

The combination of musical traditions evident in The Return Symphony fits perfectly with the Qatar Philharmonic’s broader mission of bringing together Western and Arab musical traditions and cultures, creating a platform for new kinds of musical creation.

Marcel Khalife

Kurt Meister, the Orchestra’s Executive Director, commented: “Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra is an ambassador, bringing to the world new interpretations of classical music with Arabic influences,” adding, “Marcel has been a friend of the Philharmonic since its inception, so he knows our musicians and had them in mind when writing this piece.”

The second half of the concert brings together Khalifé’s own compositions with works of poetry by modern Arab masters such as Mahmoud Darwish, Adonis and Khalil Hawi, exploring different assortments of musical instruments to express the emotions behind these works.

Conductor Michalis Economou, the Orchestra’s Music Director, commented, “In these pieces, you see the tradition of Western classical music with the best representation of Arabic music in the form of Marcel Khalifé, whose work is comparable to the best of Europe’s leading composers. He is a mentor to us all.” Economou also spoke of the Arab uprising that has been witnessed over the past year, saying: “The Qatar Philharmonic hopes to offer, through these concerts, a message of peace and empowerment to the region and the world.” 

The Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra is a member of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF), and its mission of raising awareness of and appreciation for classical music among Qatari youth is in keeping with QF’s own goal of the development of human capital.

The Return will continue with two further concerts on the 19th and 20th of February and the Philharmonic’s next concert will be held on the 25th of February 2012 at the Opera House in Katara Cultural Village.