Hamza El Din

Performing on the oud (the Arabian short-necked lute) and the tar (the ancient single-skinned frame drum of the Upper Nile), along with his gentle voice and original compositions, Hamza combines the subtleties of Arabic music with the indigenous themes of his native Nubia.  He has single-handedly forged a new music, essentially a Nubian/Arabic fusion, in line with both traditions and informed by Western conservatory training.  His music has captured the interest and imagination of listeners worldwide.

First discovered by Western audiences through his performance at the Newport Folk Festival and Vanguard recordings in 1964, his 1971 Nonesuch recording Escalay: The Water Wheel is legendary among musicians and connoisseurs, and was re-released by Nonesuch in 1998. 

Hamza’s music has been heard in movie soundtracks and his compositions have been performed by many leading ballet companies.  His 1996 album, Available Sound: Darius (Lotus Records, Salzburg, Austria) was nominated for the European equivalent of the Grammy.  He has appeared regularly with the Kronos Quartet, which included Escalay: The Water Wheel on its chart-topping Pieces of Africa album (Elektra/Nonesuch, 1992). 

He was born in a Nubian village, Aswan, Egypt.  Hamza studied at King Fouad University (now the University of Cairo), then enrolled in the Popular University and at Ibrahim Shafiq’s Institute of Music (Shafiq was renowned as a master of Arabian music and of the Muwashshah form).  Later, he studied Western music and classical guitar at the Academy of Santa Cecilia in Rome.  Next, he emigrated to the U.S., where he worked as a recording and concert artist and taught as an ethnomusicologist at several universities. Aided by a grant from the Japan Foundation, he went to Tokyo in the 1980s to make a comparative study of the Arabian oud and the Japanese biwa.

Today, Hamza resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and continues composing, teaching, recording and performing.  His worldwide concert schedule includes such major festivals as Edinburgh, Salzburg, Vienna, Paris, Berlin, Montreux, Barcelona, Los Angeles, Monterey and Festival Cervantino (Guanajuato, Mexico). 

REVIEWS

"A master of the oud, the five-string Middle Eastern precursor to the lute, El Din is one of the world’s great musical pioneers, a surpassingly subtle composer and player who has collaborated with artists as different as Thelonius Monk, the Grateful Dead and the Kronos Quartet.” - Andrew Gilbert, San Jose Mercury News

“Hamza el Din, who has made his life’s work reinterpreting the songs of his native region of Nubia on the oud, performed intense music with extreme quietude….” - Ben Ratliff, The New York Times, Reviews

“(Hamza) began to evolve new musical forms by drawing the moods and colors of Nubian music into the vast technical and aesthetic structure of Arabic classical music.  The result is not a loose amalgamation of two variant forms of music but an entirely new mode of expression.  What is especially significant is his full command of the technical possibilities of the Oud combined with new musical patterns and ideas, growing out of the vocal music and drumming of traditional Nubia.” - Elizabeth Fernea, liner notes to Escalay, Nonesuch 1998  
                      

 



Jeffrey Werbock

Considered a master of the kamancha, the traditional Azerbaijani stringed instrument played with a bow, Jeffrey Werbock is one of the few Western interpreters of the highly complex music of Azerbaijan. Known for his delicate and subtle performance, he has introduced audiences throughout the world to the unmetered, microtonal, improvised mugham musical tradition that is rarely heard.

After beginning his music studies at the age of six on the piano and at age 10 on the guitar, Werbock began composing at age 14. For more than twelve years he studied orally in the traditional manner with Zevulon Avshalomov, acknowledged as one of the great masters of Azerbaijani music. According to the World Music Institute, he was considered by Mr. Avshalomov to be his prize pupil and a true inheritor of his knowledge.

Werbock has performed throughout the U.S., Europe and the Middle East, including appearances on Azerbaijani radio and television. In 2001, Werbock was awarded an honorary degree from the Azerbaijan National Conservatory of the State Academy of Music. In 2002, Werbock was chosen to serve as official host and presenter for the Azerbaijani portion of the Smithsonian Institute’s Silk Road Festival. A recognized expert on Azerbaijani mugham, Werbock lectures and performs widely.

REVIEWS

“By his delicate and subtle performance he convinces the listener of the value and logic of this musical style. He plays with skill, nuance and conviction and leads the audience into a beautiful but rarely-heard musical world.” - Dr. Lindsay Weightman, Temple University

“His work is of the highest quality. We have been impressed with Mr. Werbock’s devotion to authenticity, and his ability to make a deep impression on his audiences, both eastern and western, is truly remarkable.” - Eldar G. Kouliev, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the United Nations

“His adherence to this timeless musical tradition is meticulous and completely authentic…. Vast knowledge of instruments, musicianship…improvisations – all these made the evening unforgettable.” - Nina Benzoor, Curator, Haifa Museum of Music & Ethnology

“A true carrier of the traditional music of Azerbaijan.” - Elise Barnett, President, Society for Asian Music 
                                                         


Charles Ketcham

Charles Ketcham has conducted many of the major orchestras in the United States, including the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Dallas Symphony, the St. Louis Symphony, the Denver Symphony, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and the Portland Symphony. He has held the positions of Resident conductor with the Utah Symphony and the San Diego Symphony, as well as Music Director of the San Diego Master Chorale and Principal Conductor of Ballet West. He has also served as principle guest conductor of the Utah Opera.

In addition, Ketcham has conducted orchestras in France (the Radio orchestra of Lille), Italy, Holland, and Denmark (Alborg). His most recent appearances have been with world-renowned Philharmonia of London, the Russian National Orchestra at Tschaikowsky Hall in Moscow, the Park City International Music Festival, the Julliard Orchestra, and the Munich Symphony Orchestra.

With his colleagues, Linda Daniel-Spitz and Laurence Rosenthal, Ketcham has recorded the complete piano music of Gurdjieff /deHartmann for the German recording label Wergo Schallplatten. He has also recorded for RCA Red Label, Pro Arte and Varase Saraband.

REVIEWS

"One of the sternest challenges in the symphonic repertory, Bruckner's Fourth Symphony ... was a superior effort by all ... A healthy share of the credit should go to the guest conductor, Charles Ketcham". - The New York Times

"Ketcham's best work was in Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite'. Everything was very much in place. He provided a stable underlying pulse, clear entrances throughout, a strong crescendo of energy in 'The Infernal Dance'. and a sense of poetry in the 'Lullaby'. - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“… polished playing by the Philharmonia under Charles Ketcham.”. - The London Times

“…the glowing highlight of the Russian National Orchestra's concert led by guest conductor Charles Ketcham. Ketcham shaped the second movement scherzo with a deft, elegant hand. Yet it was in the third movement's boisterous march that the conductor galvanized the performance, with each orchestral voice dynamically focused and forcefully articulated. The solemn Finale was devastating …Ketcham also led stirring performances of works by Pletnev, Gordon Getty and John Adams.” - Contra Costa Times


 

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 Presented by The Gurdjieff Foundation of California