Artist Profiles: Claude Chalhoub

Claude Chalhoub – Photo by Jorg Brodstedt

Born in 1974 in Lebanon into a family of musicians, Claude Chalhoub was introduced to the violin by his father who played the rebec. At the age of eight his brother gave him his first violin, and he started to play at home with the family, mostly improvising Arab music. He soon entered the conservatory, but as the war took hold of Lebanon, the conservatory was closed and Claude was forced to continue his studies on his own, discovering most of the technique of the violin by himself. A teacher later told him that he didn’t want to change that technique but refine it, because music is about the sounds and the colors of these sounds, and not about theoretical discussions about harmonies and techniques.

Obviously his self styled technique was good enough to meet high academic standards, because at the age of 18 he was offered the prestigious Queen Elizabeth scholarship which allowed him to continue his studies at the Royal College of Music in London. He studied with professor Grigory Zhisling and Rodney Friend and was introduced to a large repertoire of classical music, not only during his studying hours, but mainly by listening to all the symphonic orchestras he could watch.

Classical music was not the only repertoire he absorbed. In London he was exposed to many different culture. Claude listened to Indian music, African music, and Chinese music. He searched for his own sound. In his 4th year of studies this search led to the first recording session of his own music, Red Desert, combining the sounds of an Indian tabla with those of Arabic improvisation and a string octet.

For his final recital at the conservatory he chose a composition of his own, “Oriental Images”, which turned out to be a huge success. In 1997 he received an award for excellence. His public debut on the stage of St. John?s in London?s Smith Square led to a series of successful European concerts.

In 1999 Claude was invited to Weimar to participate in the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra conducted by Daniel Barenboim. The aim of this West Eastern Divan was to give young musicians from Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, the Middle East and Germany the opportunity to study and play music together. Barenboim selected Claude to be the musical director of the orchestra. During one of the chamber concerts, Claude attracted so much attention for his improvisational music that he was signed to record his first album. In the summer of 2000 he started to work with producer and guitarist Michael Brook in the Sound Factory in Los Angeles. At he same time he was invited to participate in Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road project in Tanglewood (USA). The self-titled album, Claude Chalhoub features Pakistani singer Forroukh Fateh Ali Khan, the brother of the legendary Nusrat. It was released in the spring of 2001 in the USA and Germany, England, France, Italy and other territories followed in 2002/2003.

In 2003 Claude also started touring with his own quartet and plays concerts in several German cities, France and Italy . The Traumzeitfestival in Duisburg, Germany commissioned him to write music for a group specially gathered for this festival. The premiere in Duisburg featuring the Indigo string octett, Trilok Gurtu on tabla , Gilad Atzmon on clarinet and saxophone plus Claude?s band was received with standing ovations.

For his performance at the prestigious WOMAD Festival in Rivermead, UK, Claude invited another outstanding musician to join his band: Indian flute virtuoso Ronu Majumdar.

Claude has composed soundtrack for several films: ?Hollywood Buddah?, ?Persona non grata? (Oliver Stone’s documentary on the Middle East conflict.) He also continues to teach at the conservatory in Beirut.

Discography:

Claude Chalhoub (Teldec Classics, 2001)
Diwan (Herzog Records, 2008)

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.

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