Kinan Azmeh: An Introduction, a Lullaby and an Ecstatic Dance

Following an unforgettable performance at Music Beyond Borders, Syrian composer and clarinetist Kinan Azmeh returns to give the world premiere of his clarinet concerto on February 6.

Syrian composer and clarinetist Kinan Azmeh first appeared as a soloist with the Seattle Symphony exactly two years ago. His unforgettable performance at Music Beyond Borders, a concert featuring music from the seven countries banned by the February 2017 executive order, inspired people around the world.

The concert made a big impact on our city, but it also made a big impact on Azmeh, who had been stranded in Beirut as a result of the travel ban. 

“While I was on stage performing my Suite for Improvisor and Orchestra in Seattle that night on February 8, 2017, I kept thinking of what a rollercoaster of a week that was; within seven days I managed to experience the thrill of performing at the new Elbphilahrmonie in Hamburg, the familiarity of being very close to home playing the Mozart Clarinet Concerto in Beirut, the worry and anger that comes with being stranded somewhere and not allowed to go home, and finally the relief of returning back to my apartment in New York, thanks to a block to the presidential executive order by a Seattle federal judge.”

Azmeh will be back in Seattle and performing with the Seattle Symphony on February 6 with a brand new concerto for clarinet and orchestra. He says that all he wanted was to write a piece that would “enjoy a lot of freedom.”

He went on to say that this piece, “is free from any programmatic or autobiographical information. The only summary that can be given here is that there is an introduction, there is a lullaby and there is an ecstatic dance in one of my favorite rhythms in Arabic music called ‘Katakufti’ or ‘Nawari,’ and in a similar fashion to many of my earlier works, the soloist has lots of room to improvise. 

“I am very grateful to the Seattle Symphony for bringing this piece to life and for making me feel at home thousands of miles away from home, and who reminded me that small gestures of solidarity can travel far, freely!”

In addition to Azmeh’s new concerto on February 6, he’ll also be giving an encore performance of The Wedding from his Suite for Improvisor and Orchestra. Watch the video below of his exhilarating performance at Music Beyond Borders

Get your tickets now to this one-night-only performance of the Seattle Symphony with Kinan Azmeh and his longtime collaborators, the Silkroad Ensemble.


Posted on January 11, 2019