We weren’t sure what this would sound like: Arabic? Jewish (unlikely, admittedly)? Persian? None of these, it’s very European and could be a couple of centuries old, and not — in the case of one piece — three years.
Piano Sonata No 4 (1963) opens and is from Anis Fuleihan. He was director of the Beirut Conservatory from 1953 to 1960, was born and brought up Cyprus and spent most of his life in the USA. It’s lively and bold; it starts off slightly spiky but eases, the playing fast and precise. The second movement is pleasingly calm while the fourth movement is subtitled “a la grèque” but it should be “a la americaine” to our ears.
Houtaf Khoury’s super modern Piano Sonata No 4 (2016) follows, kicking off in more confrontational mode, the piano announcing a coming storm; the first movement is called Morass, and the music has a loose and free feel, like floundering in a bog. Desolation is not as bleak as it sounds, more the despair of being trapped inside a wet day (the notes fall a little like raindrops). It reminded us of the Colin Towns soundtrack Full Circle, about life in a mental institution as we remember, with the same melancholy air. The piece is apparently about the Syrian conflict.
Boghos Gelalian is next; he is of Armenian descent. His Piano Sonata dates from 1964 and is more romantic in sound than the earlier pieces.
The programme closes with two easier pieces, Waleed Howrani’s Lebanese Rhapsody, which is a round-up of popular local folk tunes; parts of it are familiar and it’s one of the more Middle Eastern sounding pieces. Fuleihan ends the CD with his Air and Fugue On White Keys; you can guess what that’s about.
This is an interesting album, and not at all difficult, from composers you might not normally hear of.
Out on Grand Piano, GP812.
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