A treasure island of piano music — Spiegel Online
The Grand Piano label continues to uncover gems of the piano repertoire. — Fanfare

LEBANESE PIANO MUSIC

Anis FULEIHAN • Boghos GELALIAN • Houtaf KHOURY • Georges BAZ • Toufic SUCCAR


  • Tatiana Primak-Khoury, piano

With the sea to the West and the Orient to the East, Lebanon is located exactly where both worlds meet. A remarkable blend of these influences can be heard in this exploration of three generations of Lebanese music, from Toufic Succar’s classically carefree Variations and Georges Baz’s “commemoration of Impressionism”, via the uncompromising modernity of Boghos Gelalian’s turbulent Toccata and Houtaf Khoury’s Third Sonata that represents “life in a country where politics shatter every dream.” The emotional intensity of these pieces reflects both a unique national temperament and the dramatic times in which they were written.

Tracklist

Fuleihan, Anis
 
Piano Sonata No. 9 (1970) (00:15:20 )
1
I. Calmo, con serenità * (00:05:59)
2
II. Lento * (00:04:12)
3
III. Allegro, non troppo - * (00:01:43)
4
IV. Presto * (00:03:41)
Khoury, Houtaf
 
Piano Sonata No. 3, "Pour un instant perdu…" () (00:21:05 )
5
I. Hasard - * (00:08:20)
6
II. Le temps suspendu - * (00:06:47)
7
III. Quête * (00:06:12)
Gelalian, Boghos
 
Tre Cicli (1969) (00:08:46 )
8
I. Allegro con spirito * (00:03:12)
9
II. Adagio malinconico * (00:03:02)
10
III. Allegro con furia * (00:02:46)
 
Canzona e Toccata () (00:06:37 )
11
Canzona: Adagio e dolente * (00:03:11)
12
Toccata: Vivace * (00:03:41)
Baz, Georges
 
Esquisses () (00:10:23 )
13
I. Le marché au matin (00:01:13)
14
II. Fête (00:01:12)
15
III. Mon ami Makoto Shinohara (00:01:24)
16
IV. Les trois "Donzello" (00:01:37)
17
V. Brève déclaration (00:01:13)
18
VI. La fontaine gaie (00:02:05)
19
VII. Une soirée libanaise (00:02:06)
Succar, Toufic
20
Variations sur un theme oriental () (00:06:25)
* World Première Recording
Total Time: 01:10:01

The Artist

The Ukrainian-Lebanese pianist Tatiana Primak-Khoury began her concert career in her native Ukraine before extending her activities to concerts in Europe, America and the Middle East. A laureate of national and international piano competitions in Ukraine, she has a master’s degree from the Tchaikovsky National Academy of Music in Kiev. In 1998 she moved to Lebanon and since then has been committed to expanding the boundaries of traditional repertoire, constantly searching and adding new contemporary pieces, devoting her interest to performing rarely heard works by Ukrainian and Lebanese composers. Married to Lebanese composer Houtaf Khoury, she has given several premières of his piano works including his Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Ukrainian National Orchestra in 1996, Piano Concerto No. 2 “Angel of light” with the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra in 2012, three piano sonatas and other works. Tatiana Primak-Khoury serves as an artist-in-residence at the University of Balamand and teaches at the National Lebanese Conservatory of Music.

The Composer

Anis Fuleihan made an intensive study of Middle Eastern traditional music as early as the 1920s, and there are traces of this preoccupation in his Piano Sonata No. 9. Inasmuch as he was director of the Beirut Conservatory from 1953 to 1960, and conductor of Beirut’s orchestra during the same period, Fuleihan is one of the founding fathers of Lebanese symphonic music. Although he was the scion of an old Lebanese family, Fuleihan was born and brought up in the town of Kyrenia in Cyprus and spent most of his life in the USA, where he made a name for himself as a pianist, conductor and composer. In the 1930s he worked for the publishing house G. Schirmer and had a good network of contacts among the big names in the music world of the time. His orchestral works were premièred by the likes of John Barbirolli and Leopold Stokowski, and he himself frequently conducted the New York Philharmonic. After teaching at Indiana University for many years, Fuleihan held appointments first in Beirut and later in Tunisia, where he founded the Orchestre Classique de Tunis in 1962. Not only his biography, but also his music gives the impression that he was a focussed and vigorous cosmopolitan.

Boghos Gelalian was born into an Armenian family that had fled to the Mediterranean city of Alexandretta to escape the Ottoman genocide. Already born into exile, and having lost his parents during a malaria epidemic, Gelalian (like many other Armenians) sought refuge in Lebanon when Turkey annexed Alexandretta, earning his living as a pianist in nightclubs, then working as a music arranger for radio. As musical advisor to the Rahbani brothers, he went on to play a significant role in the singer Fairuz’s rise to become a legendary icon of Arabic music. Fairuz’s son Ziad Rahbani, who later became the Lebanese left wing’s figurehead, was also one of his pupils. Despite his familiarity with jazz and light music and the Turkish and Arabic traditions, Gelalian’s own compositions are uncompromisingly modern. Their intense chromaticism occasionally verges on atonality, whilst also—astonishingly—being derived from Armenian and oriental modes.

Born in Tripoli in 1967 and with a doctorate in musicology, Houtaf Khoury represents the younger generation of Lebanese composers. The formative influences on his work came from the Ukraine, from Kiev, where a grant enabled him to pursue his studies from 1988 to 1997. Khoury shares the scepticism of composers such as Shostakovich, Schnittke and Kancheli vis-à-vis the avant-garde’s obsession with material and the belief that music always conveys a message. His orchestral works, chamber music and compositions for piano are pleas for a more humane world.

Reviews

Fanfare

“From the complex rhythmic patterns of traditional Arabic music to the more contemporary compositions of one of Lebanon’s most renowned living composers, this music is a showcase of the diversity of possibilities from composers with a similar cultural background.” – Fanfare

“A terrifically rewarding and varied disc, then, offering a plethora of world premiere releases. Recording standards are excellent.” – Fanfare

“This album is a compilation of world-class compositions performed by an artist with an awareness of, and appreciation for, the weight and quality of each note.” – Fanfare

“Everything about this CD is right. The piano sound is warm and full, neither too closely nor too distantly miked. Pianist Primak-Khoury was born and trained in Kiev, with its great musical tradition, but has lived in Lebanon since 1998 and she has clearly absorbed that country’s music and its culture. Nothing here sounds like a newly learned reading. Each performance carries conviction and abandon, and a wide range of keyboard colors.” – Fanfare

“Primak-Khoury plays with sensitivity, confidence, and technical panache—and while the sound is a notch below state-of-the-art, there are no serious complaints. Well worth your attention.” – Fanfare

“…I have much relished the pieces recorded here. I would advise anyone with an ear for the unusual to search out a copy. There is much to discover and it will certainly make this reviewer look out for more music by these fascinating and little known men of Lebanese music.” – MusicWeb International

“Tatiana Primak-Khoury is a sensitive player, who has managed to convey the multiplicity of moods the composers featured displayed in their music and is a great ambassador for this small country’s rich musical heritage. It is an extremely interesting and highly enjoyable disc.” – MusicWeb International

“Often with dazzlingly fast fingers, I take Primak-Khoury’s performances at face value and in outstanding recorded sound. Discover the disc and be pleasantly surprised.” – David Denton