The Cairo Symphony Orchestra honoured the 25th anniversary of Gamal AbdelRehim’s death with a concert in the Cairo Opera House’s main hall. The orchestra was led by Nader Abbassi and featured pianist Mohamed Shams. The orchestra played Abdel Rehim’s Rondo Baladi followed by other famous works by leading international composers.
The notable Egyptian composer AbdelRehim was born on 25 November 1925. Although he showed prodigious talent by mastering several oriental instruments, and invented a new kind of flute, he was self-taught when it came to western instruments. Graduating in 1945 from Cairo University, he travelled to Germany to further study at the Freiburg Academy from 1951 to 1957.
Upon his return AbdelRehim worked at the Cairo Conservatory and established the first centre that taught music composition. He became the head of the conservatory in 1985 and became well known for fusing oriental and western music, using instruments such as the marimba together with traditional Egyptian instruments. His repertoire includes symphonic, chamber, ballet and film music.
AbdelRehim received the Gamal Abdel Nasser prize and the state prize for composition for his Mawal From Egypt in 1973. Several of his works have been translated into European languages. He died on 23 November 1988.
The conductor of the concert, Nader Abbassi, has led several world orchestras such as the Rheinland Pfalz Philharmonie, the Heidelberg Philharmonic Orchestra, the Marseille Philharmonic and the Geneva Chamber Orchestra. His repertoire includes several famous operas such as Tosca, Madame Butterfly and La Traviatta. He was also the principal conductor and artistic director of the Cairo Symphony Orchestra from 2001 to 2011, before current conductor Jiri Petrdlik took over.
The concert featured Rachmaninoff’s Isle of the Dead, based on the Böcklin painting of the same name, Prokofiev’s Concerto for Piano no.3 and a Polonaise from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, which was recently streamed from the Metropolitan State Opera house in New York City as part of the Live in HD programme.
This is not the first time the Opera House has honoured Egyptian composers and included their compositions alongside famous international works; the orchestra has most recently paid tribute to another notable Egyptian composer, Ammar Al-Sherei, after his death in December 2012.