A Portrait of Malek Jandali
Years of Culture
Based between Manhattan and Atlanta, composer Malek Jandali's work has been described as “deeply enigmatic” (Gramophone) and is widely regarded as “a major new addition to the 21st century’s symphonic literature” (Fanfare magazine).
Jandali’s compositions not only integrate Middle-Eastern modes into Western classical forms and harmony but also echo UNESCO’s call to preserve and protect the rich cultural heritage of his homeland Syria at a time when it is being eradicated. His repertoire ranges from chamber music to large-scale orchestral works including seven symphonies, eight concertos, and various programmatic pieces.
Jandali’s works have been performed by numerous orchestras including the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra, Stockholm Solister, Norrlandsoperan Symphony Orchestra, Cairo Symphony Orchestra, Russian Philharmonic Orchestra, and the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Jandali has produced nine albums of lauded performances of more than forty of his compositions. His most recent album, released in 2021, includes his Piano Concerto, recorded in Moscow with the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra led by Sergey Kondrashev, and his Elegy, recorded in London with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by David Firman.
Jandali is currently serving as composer-in-residence at the National Museum of Qatar, which commissioned his Symphony No. 4 for String Orchestra and Symphony No. 6, “The Desert Rose.”
Symphony No. 6, “The Desert Rose”
The desert rose, with its intricate crystalline petal clusters, forms over millennia through the interaction of minerals, sand, and water in regions such as Qatar—a land of desert and sea. This “architectural” wonder of nature inspired the design of Jean Nouvel’s masterpiece, the National Museum of Qatar, a stunning structure of interlocking discs that tells the story of Qatar from the natural history of its origins through its cultural developments to the cutting-edge technologies of today.
Springing from the idea that architecture is frozen music, Malek Jandali’s Symphony No. 6 takes its inspiration from both “desert roses,” transforming them into a consummate orchestral work that preserves and extends the rich heritage of the region. The Desert Rose Symphony depicts their complexity and contrasts in form and scale, juxtaposing the traditional and the modern—rapid progress intertwined with the arid golden sand dunes and the abundance of the sea.
The nine-movement symphony also takes inspiration from the nine-point serrated line in the flag of Qatar indicating the ninth member of the “Reconciled Emirates” of the Persian Gulf in the wake of concluding the Qatari-British treaty in 1916. The white colour reflects the internationally recognised symbol of peace.
Like its inspirations, Symphony No. 6 harbours an elaborate interlocking structure. Bookmarked in A-flat major, in which key the first and last movements end, the Symphony comprises three interlaced musical forms—a symphonic suite and two symphonies. One is a Qatari symphonic suite based on traditional folk music and dances using the principle of contrast: Movements II, III, V and VII. Second is a traditional “old-fashioned” symphony of four Movements I, IV, VI and IX. The third combines the first two “symphonies” with Movement VIII, which brings about the grandiose conclusion of the Desert Rose Symphony.
As part of the official celebrations to mark the 10th Anniversary of Years of Culture, the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra will perform the world premiere of The Desert Rose at the National Museum of Qatar on Monday 31st October 2022.