Gabriel (2015)

12 minutes
Solo Cello
Commissioned by Matt Haimovitz
A Soliloquy for Solo Cello

Movements:

I. Lullaby: Rock Me to Sleep
II. Profanation
III. Meditation

Notes:

When I was a child, I was afraid of the dark. My mother would always tuck me into bed, play some music for me and reassure me with the words: “your Guardian Angel is watching over you”.

I’ve always been reassured by this idea that there are effervescent spirits of light that watch over people, protect them and keep them safe from harm. Over the years, the angels of Middle Eastern lore have played an important part in my thinking and my music (as in my string quartet, The Named Angels). Chief among these spirits is the beautifully named angel Gabriel. When I began to compose this work I imagined it as a soliloquy sung by the Angel; a song without words.

The first movement is a lullaby that evokes the Gabriel lulling a child to sleep and watching over him peacefully through the night. Throughout the movement we hear a soulful breathing in the music. The tone is tender, gentle and uses that uniquely songlike quality of the cello’s upper register.

The second movement, Profanation, is disjointed, loud and brash. The child has grown up. He has learned the compulsory game of day-to-day life. Perhaps has learned cynicism. Profanation represents the intrusion of logistical life; the hustle of getting through the loud days and not being able to pay attention to the simple elements. It is the loss of the purity of the early lullaby.

In Islam, the angels are creatures of light while the jinn are made of fire and man is composed from a clot of blood and mud. And so, the final movement, Meditation, is a return to thinking about those simple elements: the eternal presence of the angels and jinn in the light and fire of the earth. This movement is filled with pregnant silences and room for thought. After the dense commute of life, we hear the mediation of late years. It is a meditation from old age that recalls the purity of a childhood lullaby.

– Mohammed Fairouz (2015)

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