“What is happening in Lebanon right now is tragic. Once again, this country is caught in the midst of vendetta and vengeance. If such a thing as learning from history remains of vital concern, then we should sit down and listen to El-Khoury.” (David Kahn, London)
BECHARA EL-KHOURY, the Franco-Lebanese composer and poet was born in Beirut on March 18, 1957. His artistic gifts were revealed very early. He completed his musical training in Lebanon with Hagop Arslanian and groomed himself into becoming an accomplished composer, pianist, conductor, chorus-master and poet. He was celebrated as a child prodigy, with some hundred musical compositions written between 1969 -- when he was only twelve -- and 1978. Between 1971 and 1973, he published three volumes of poetry. In 1973, he was Kapellmeister at the church of Saint Elias in Antelias near Beirut. At that time he composed numerous symphonic works as well as choral and orchestral works. In 1979, Bechara El-Khoury came to Paris where he benefited for a few years from Pierre-Petit’s advice in composition and orchestration. In 1983, ERATO released a two-record album of his symphonic and concert music. This recording was made by the Orchestre Colonne conducted by Pierre Dervaux and the American pianist David Lively. That same year, a televised gala concert was organized at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris, for the “Khalil Gibran Centenary”. On that occasion, the Orchestre Colonne and Pierre Dervaux performed, a complete program of his works. In 1985, he composed the Symphony opus 37 Les Ruines de Beyrouth in memory of the Lebanese war of 1975. In 1994, the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International, (L.B.C.I.), the main television channel in Lebanon, awarded him the “Prize for Arts and Culture”. In 1996, FORLANE re-released two CDs with his complete symphonic and concert music performed by David Lively, Gérard Poulet, Abdel Rahman El Bacha and the Orchestre Colonne conducted by Pierre Dervaux that received 3 stars in the Penguin Guide in 2003. That same year, the first performance of his sextet for violins, which was commissioned by Shlomo Mintz for his master-classes, was filmed in Tel-Aviv and subsequently shown in 1997 at Carnegie Hall. In 2000, Bechara El-Khoury received the “Prix Rossini” of the Académie des Beaux-Arts (Institut de France) and in 2001 the “Knight of the National Order of the Cedar of Lebanon”.
In 2002, Bechara El-Khoury began his discographic collaboration with NAXOS. In 2003, his composition Les Fleuves Engloutis Opus 64 made it to the finals of the Masterprize International Competition for Composers in London and was then given its world premiere by the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican under the direction of Daniel Harding in 2003 and its French premiere with the Orchestre National de France at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in 2004 also under Maestro Harding’s direction. In January 2006, The London Symphony Orchestra released a new CD containing two major pieces for orchestra of Mr. El-Khoury: New York, Tears and Hope dedicated to the victims of 9/11 (conductor: Martyn Brabbins) and Les Fleuves Engloutis (conductor: Daniel Harding). In May 2006, his violin concerto opus 62, Aux Frontières de Nulle Part was world premiered at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, by Sarah Nemtanu and the Orchestre National de France conducted by Kurt Masur. In June 2007, New York, Tears and Hope saw its world premiere by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra conducted by Peter Oundjian in Detroit. Two world premieres came to life in 2009. The first, on March 12, 2009 Daniel Hope and the Kammerakademie Potsdam performed in Berlin Unfinished Journey for violin and string orchestra, an homage to Yehudi Menuhin and the tenth anniversary since his death commissioned by the Menuhin Festival Gstaad of which Bechara El-Khoury was composer in residence in the summer of 2009. The second on September 18, 2009 in Paris, David Guerrier and the Orchestre National de France performed the concerto for French horn and orchestra The Dark Mountain under the direction of Jean-Claude Casadesus commissioned by Radio France for its “Presences Festival”. On June 9, 2010 at the Salle Pleyel in Paris, Vicens Prats and the Orchestre de Paris under the direction of Eivind Gullberg-Jensen gave the world premiere of Poème Nocturne for flute and orchestra composed in memory of Jean-Pierre Rampal, commissioned by the Orchestre de Paris. On June 18, 2011, his War Concerto was world premiered by the violinist Daniel Hope in Germany (NDR Symphony Orchestral Hamburg conducted by Cornelius Meister).
On November 5, 2012, world premiere of his Poème symphonique n° 6, Espaces-Fragmentations (commissioned by Radio France) at the Paris Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, by the Orchestre national de France conducted by Daniele Gatti.
On September 11, 2013, world premiere by the Orchestre de Paris under the direction of Paavo Järvi of Orages (commissioned by the Orchestre de Paris) at the Salle Pleyel in Paris.
Summer 2013, eight concerts were given after his residence at the Musique à l'Empéri Festival. Two of his pieces were premiered for this event, commissioned by the festival: 7 pièces picturales brèves for flute, clarinette and piano by Emmanuel Pahud, Paul Meyer and Eric Le Sage as well as Mare Nostrum for ten instruments.
On November 26, 2015, Emmanuel Pahud, together with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg conducted by Hans Graf, premiered his concerto for flute and orchestra, Faraway Colours opus 90, a co-commission of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg and of the Nouvelle Musique en Liberté.
June 2015, Bechara El-Khoury is promoted honoris causa member of the SACEM.
On November 2015 Bechara El-Khoury is the laureate of the Saïd Alk Prize, named after the great lebanese philosopher and poet.
In 2016 in the context of a world tour for the one-hundredth anniversary since Yehudi Menuhin's birth, Daniel Hope performed Unfinished Journey for violin and string orchestra in more than fifty cities spread on four continents.
In 2018, the world premiere of Chant de lumière pour la Sainte Vierge for cello and orchestra by OJIF took place, directed by David Molard at the Rutebeuf Theater. In the same year, they created Symphony No. 2 - Träume von Wien at the Maison de l'Unesco in Paris.
His catalogue includes some hundred works performed at various venues:
Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Salle Pleyel, Théâtre du Châtelet, Radio France, Salle Gaveau, Salle Cortot in Paris, Opéra Berlioz/Le Corum in Montpellier, Festival Présences, Paris and Flâneries de Reims, Detroit Concert Hall; Aspen Festival Barbican Hall, Leighton House Museum, St Luke’s Church in London and BBC Kiev Philharmonia Cairo Opera House Grand Sérail, Assembly Hall (American University), St Joseph Cathedral in Beirut Noga Theatre and Recanatti Hall of Tel Aviv, Israeli Radio-Television Gstaad Festival Festival Mecklenburg-Vorpommern...
In different countries:
Italy, Germany, Belgium, Romania and Sweden...
By many orchestras:
Orchestre National de France, London Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, Orchestre Colonne, Orchestre National de Montpellier, Orchestre Symphonique Français, Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, NDR Symphony Orchestra Hamburg Aspen Chamber Symphony Orchestra Lebanese National Symphony Orchestra Cairo Symphony Orchestra, Israel Chamber Orchestra, Ukraine National Symphony Orchestra, Lebanese National Symphony Orchestra Detroit Symphony Orchestra Dearborn Symphony Orchestra (Michigan) Kammerakademie Potsdam Camerata Salzburg Chamber Orchestra of Europe Basel Chamber Orchestra Ensemble Orchestral de Paris Hallé Orchestra Ensemble Basse Normandie Konzerthaus Berlin Orchestra Gävle Symfoniorchester Sweden Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra Czech Philharmonic Bechara El-Khoury was commissioned works by Radio France, Orchestre de Paris, Musique Nouvelle en Liberté, the Orchestre Symphonique Français, the Master-Classes of Shlomo Mintz, the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris, Francophonie, Menuhin Festival Gstaad, Presences Festival, Flaneries de Reims, Buffet Crampon, Long-Thibaud-Crespin competition…
He is published by the Editions Max Eschig, Durand and Alphonse Leduc. Bechara El-Khoury lives in Paris.
“His compositions are dominated by symphonic and concertante writings, his works being the expression of humanism based on an underlying Christian spirituality.”
“A fascinating composer”
(Gary Higginson- Musicweb International, Nov 2003)
“ A powerfully committed new voice, this is a composer to be reckoned with “
(Ivan March – The Gramophone, Feb. 2003)
His music is published by Durand / Universal Classical Music.
Photo : © Patricia Dietzi