Culture

Music and masters at Molaeb Museum

BEIRUT: Jamil Molaeb is among Lebanon’s better-known modernist artists. Born in Baysour, Chouf, the young Molaeb (b. 1948) studied with such noted artists as Chafic Abboud and Paul Guiragossian before traveling abroad to continue his explorations.

Stylistically, Molaeb’s canvases range from Lebanese landscape depictions – which veer toward the folkloric – to experiments with expressionism, to color-infused abstract compositions.

A year ago, the Jamil Molaeb Museum was founded as a monument to the artist’s oeuvre. At the end of this month, Ribal Molaeb, the artist’s son, will celebrate the museum’s first anniversary.

A classically trained violist, the younger Molaeb has curated a two-day festival in Beirut and Baysour. Hosted in part by the Jamil Molaeb Museum, the event will also mark the second edition of the International Festival for Chamber Music and Fine Arts.

Molaeb says his Lebanese upbringing and classical music background have largely informed the nature of the festival. As the event’s title implies, the program combines facets of visual and performing arts.

The museum will host an exhibition of paintings by over 15 Lebanese artists of the 19th- and 20th-centuries. These “Lebanese Grand Artists” include Daoud Corm, as well as the works of Jamil Molaeb himself.

The curator says the selection will reflect the range of forms and styles mastered by national artists during this particularly formative time in Lebanese history.

The accompanying concert schedule will feature performances by eight musicians from Germany, Holland, England, Slovenia and Lebanon. They will perform a selection of work from classical and romantic European repertoire.

Ranging from Mozart to the romantic melodies of Mendelssohn and Wolf and the distinctively modern strains of Shostakovich, Molaeb has curated a music program which is quite distinct from the fine arts side of the event.

“I’m always active in my country, Lebanon,” Molaeb remarks when asked about his decision to program European music. “Whenever I have vacation, or the chance, I always come here and perform a concert because I don’t want to lose the connection with my country. I am very interested to perform classical music in Lebanon.”

Born and raised in Lebanon, Molaeb moved to Austria to continue his studies at the Mozarteum, Salzburg. A year later, he moved to Vienna, where he intends to complete a master’s degree in music in 2017.

In addition to his studies, Molaeb is active on the concert circuit, taking part in a myriad of international music festivals in Europe. He is also a member of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, founded by Argentine-born pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim and Palestinian literary scholar and activist Edward Said.

The curator says he largely drew on friends and colleagues when inviting his players. “I met them at festivals,” Molaeb says. “We became friends and I like the way they play. Since I’m having my own festival, and chamber music is about playing with people you like, I simply invited them over. They’re happy to come purely for the privilege and pleasure of performing this music.”

The International Festival for Chamber Music and Fine Arts will take place over two days. On Aug. 28, the exhibition “Lebanese Grand Artists” will open at Baysour’s Jamil Molaeb Museum, while Molaeb and friends perform tunes from the classical repertoire. The festival moves north to AUB’s Assembly Hall for its second show on Aug. 29.

The juxtaposition of Lebanese visual art and vintage European classical music proposes a unique and rich experience for attendees.

“Everybody is welcome!” Molaeb says enthusiastically.

For more information on the Molaeb Festival for Chamber and Fine Arts, see https://www.facebook.com/events/1595944134037897/

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 24, 2016, on page 16.

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