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Jandali: Concertos

Jandali: Concertos

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Clarinetist Anthony McGill and violinist Rachel Barton Pine are featured soloists on a new recording of two concertos composed in response to societal injustices by Syrian composer Malek Jandali, performed by the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra and led by Marin Alsop, a champion of the composer’s work.

Malek Jandali, called “deeply enigmatic” by Gramophone, has been praised for writing “heart-rending melodies, lush orchestration, clever transitions and creative textures” (American Record Guide). His repertoire, which ranges from chamber music to large scale orchestral works, integrates Middle-Eastern modes into Western classical forms and harmony. Rachel Barton Pine, “an exciting, boundary-defying performer” (The Washington Post), performs Jandali’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (2014), a work that honors “all women who thrive with courage” according to the composer. Jandali’s concerto is in recognition of the women of Syria, continuing his aim to preserve the cultural heritage of his homeland.

The Violin Concerto incorporates Syrian melodies and idioms into Jandali’s Western-inspired harmonies and forms. Jandali calls upon an array of Syrian and Arabic music forms and folk melodies including multiple sama’i and bashraf (instrumental pieces), and longa (dances), from different maqam (modes). He also makes use of the oud (Arabic lute) in his symphonic scoring to infuse the work with the authentic sound and feeling of Syria. A particularly notable sama’i inspired by traditional Syrian folk music from the area along the Silk Road Is used for a “Women’s Theme.” This theme is representative of the folk music that is a source of comfort and healing for unjustly detained, peaceful Syrian activists and other women and mothers living in fear.

Jandali’s Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra (2021) is dedicated to its performer Anthony McGill (“the total package… stylish, passionate and limitlessly fluent on the clarinet,” Bachtrack), “in memory of all victims of injustice.” McGill says of the work, ”In the midst of the pain and the violence and injustice in the world all we are left with is the ability to pour our hearts and our souls into something more beautiful, into something more powerful, so it can communicate throughout all time and live on.” Like all of Jandali’s works, the clarinet concerto is infused with ancient themes from Jandali’s homeland as a means of preservation. Jandali explores variations on themes from old and traditional Syrian musical forms and modalities, with striking musical effects and wide ranging highs and lows in the orchestral writing.

Watch our Live Roundtable with Marin Alsop, Malek Jandali and Anthony McGill!


The soloists shine, and Alsop and her Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra accompany them faithfully through every mood.

Jandali’s Violin Concerto has a long and thoughtful opening moment, an introspective middle section and a dancelike finale. He uses the Arabic oud in conversation with the violin, as plaintive voices crying out with dignity and restraint. (Kudos to oud soloist Bassam Halaka.) And maybe that buoyant feeling in the finale represents not exuberance but defiance, as a protest against suppression.

The 25-minute clarinet concerto operates mostly on a mysterious plane, one we associate more obviously with Arabic elements. Some of the subtle, sinuous playing and percussive rhythms would not be out of place in a good Hollywood soundtrack – that’s a compliment – as Jandali slowly brings us into his sound world.

-- WDAV (Classical Public Radio, 89.9FM, Lawrence Toppman)

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  • Release Specifications

    • Number of Discs: 1
    • Release Date:
    • Label: Cedille
    • UPC/Barcode: 735131922029
    • Item Number: CDR 220