In 2019 the Morgenland Festival Osnabrück celebrated its 15th Anniversary with a wide-ranging programme.
Jasser Haj Youssef
Morgenland All Star Band
The opening concert, with the Taksim Trio from Istanbul, as well as Alim Qasimov, Michel Godard, Hüsnü Senlendirici and Rauf Islamov, turned out to be one of the absolute highlights. Radio stations from Germany, Spain and Portugal broadcast the whole concert in their home countries. The Ensemble Constantinople brought an extensive line-up for an unusual project. In “Et je reverrai cette ville étrange” the musicians developed nothing less than the “sound of a global city” – a common language, born from the diversity of different traditions. The MAqam Ensemble, founded by the Syrian violinist Maias Alyamani, is, at heart, a string ensemble, and thus formally a profoundly Western format. However, the musicians are able to incorporate the Arabian microtonality into their playing, in a way that no other ensemble does. For one of the highlights of their performance the ensemble was joined by the young Tunisian singer Nour Kamar, who plays (and sings) the young Oum Kulthum in Shirin Neshat’s film “Looking for Oum Kulthum”. This film was shown in the presence of the lead actress, Neda Rahmanian, and Nour Kamar.
The winner of the Tchaikovsky Prize, Narek Hakhnazaryan (cello) and the Palestinian pianist, Saleem Ashkar count among the long-time partners of the Festival. Their first joint performance was during this anniversary edition. ‘The Fence, the rooftop and the distant sea’ presented chamber music by Arabian composers, played by the woodwind soloists of the Staatskapelle Berlin together with Elisaveta Blumina on the piano and Narek Hakhnazaryan on cello. Two works were premiered during the concert: Issam Rafea’s Photo Emulsion and Three scenes by Jaid Zabri. Yasamin Shahhosseini, oud (Iran) and Maya Youssef, qanun (Syria) are two fantastic soloists of the young generation, both of whom explore and expand the potential and artistic expression possibilities of their instruments. This was the first time they had played a concert together.
The Syrian singer Dima Orsho has been connected to the Festival for a long time. Together with her newly founded ensemble she presented “Hidwa – Lullabies for Troubled Times”. Mohsen Namjoo was scheduled to appear at the Morgenland Festival in 2008, but was unable to come due to visa problems. 11 years later he and his band played a truly memorable concert. Moslem Rahal, Kinan Azmeh and Florian Weber stood in at short notice for the Iranian Trio Re, who had to cancel due to illness – a jam session of incredible intensity, enthusiasm and virtuosity.
The NDR Bigband has also been connected with the Festival for a long time. At their suggestion they developed a project with the Syrian clarinettist Kinan Azmeh. Volkswagen’s Production Hall 2 was the unusual scene for this outstanding World-Jazz Concert with music arranged and conducted by Wolf Kerschek. Bakustic Jazz is a world class trio which played to enthusiastic audiences, as it had already done in 2009. ‘Aynur & 4 Hands’ presented the Kurdish singer Aynur, together with the pianists Salman Gambarov (Azerbaijan) and Florian Weber (Germany), and they were joined by the French Serpent specialist Michel Godard. Waed Bouhassoun and Moslem Rahal played traditional Arabian music from various regions of Syria; an intimate and magical concert evening.
Hardly any other German musician has studied Arabian music as closely as the accordionist and producer Manfred Leuchter. Leuchter lived for many years in Marrakesh, was one of the first German musicians to put on Goethe Institute Workshops in Damascus, and has had a profound influence on musicians such as Dima Orsho, Lena Chamamyan, Issam Rafea or Kinan Azmeh. During the Festival Leuchter and many of his long-time friends put on a wonderful concert.
The final concert with the Osnabrück Symphony Orchestra and the Morgenland All Star Band was an open air event with an audience of over 1,000 in front of the Cathedral. According to the magazine Jazzthetik it was the finale of a Festival which had been a “simply a sequence of highlights”.