Austrian Association for Contemporary Art and Music


Donhoffer conducts the Students Orchestra of the

High Institute of Music (SOHIM) by Dr. Sadek Pharaon

For the third time, the High Institute of Music in Damascus, in cooperation with the Austrian Association for Contemporary Art and Music (AACAM) and the Austrian Embassy in Damascus, invited the Austrian conductor Maestro Ewald Donhoffer to carry out a workshop for the members of the SOHIM which he did, in cooperation with its official conductor Maestro Missak Baghboudarian. The main theme of the workshop was Contemporary music: both Austrian and Syrian. At the end of this workshop, a concert was given at the Drama Theater of Dar Al Assad for Culture and Arts. The Austrian ambassador, Dr. Maria Kunz, and many members of her and other diplomatic delegations as well as Damascus audience were present.

The SOHIM is a 7 years old  orchestra whose main aim is to prepare the HIM students for their future career as expert professionals. The AACAM was also founded in Vienna in 2005 to promote contemporary arts and music. The first item was Hassan Taha's (1968-) "Makamphony". In this work, the Syrian composer is experimenting by mixing modern themes with Makams, which are the arch-old modes that were and are still widely used in Eastern traditional music. To stress this mixing, the composer used fourth-tones in his music, as well as a good quantum of dissonances and cacophonies. The end result is a novel type of modern music that aroused interest among the listeners. How much longevity would such type of music hybridization gain is, however, a matter of time. The future will certainly tell the forthcoming generations. The work was enthusiastically conducted by the young Austrian conductor and also performed by the around fifty of young members. The work received high ovation.

The second work, also written by the young Syrian Zaid Jabri (1975-) who is at present studying and working in Poland, had the title of "Muzyka Kameralna", and was conducted by Maestro Missak Baghboudarian. This is, also, a very interesting modern work, but the composer here is more Westbound with a larger amount of dissonances. His work ends with a lugubrious and somber air and was also received with enthusiastic ovation.

Now the Orchestra played, under the baton of Donhoffer, Brahms's First Movement of his 2nd Symphony in D major. The reason for including a late romantic composer in the concert was, as explained to the audience by Herr Gerald Resch, to show the evolution of music from the latter half of the Nineteenth Century into the early Twentieth Century. Brahms's music was given an enthusiastic and enjoyable performance. Now, back into Modern and Contemporary Austrian music. Two works from Gottfried von Einem (1918-1996) were performed. The First was "Wandlungen" (Changes) was a fine and highly interesting work in which a theme was borrowed from Mozart's "Magic Flute". Von Einem's music, unlike that of the Viennese Avant-guard Dodecaphonic school, is very highly enjoyable modern music and is rich with lyrical melodies and the traditional light-heartedness of the Viennese people. The 2nd von Einem's work was "Ludi Leopoldini" op. 55. Herr Donhoffer explained to the audience that, although von Einem was fond of borrowing themes from famous composers, like Mozart in the previous instance, but here the theme is borrowed from an unknown composer and musician, who, however, happens to be a very famed personality and isn't but the Emperor (Kaiser) Leopold himself. This work has a wealth of melodious themes, in the 2nd part, the music was dealt with fugally and the general  atmosphere was light hearted and happy. Thus a highly enjoyable concert came to an end.

Sincere thanks are expressed to the dynamic and enthusiastic guest conductor Ewald Donhoffer. Similar thanks are also expressed to all who contributed and participated in it. It is a noble sign of cooperation and assistance between Austria and Syria and this is indeed highly meaningful and noble. Let us look for more and more such cooperation. Greetings to Vienna, the immortal homeland of Music and to its three main strongholds: The Staatsoper, the Musikverein and the Konzerthaus. Long live Music. Long live Great and Eternal Music… Long live Wien, the main fountain of Great Music and Art.

Dr. Sadek Pharaon