Mohammed Fairouz: Symphony No. 5, LSO / Lee Reynolds

This is a piece that seems to challenge and yet to heal at the same time, with the final “Illumination” a pure expression of joy

Mohammed Fairouz: Symphony No. 5, LSO / Lee Reynolds
recording session, photo © Robbie McKane / TMRW Co

recording session, photo © Robbie McKane / TMRW Co

The London Symphony Orchestra gave the world premiere streamed performance of Mohammed Fairouz’ Symphony #5 commissioned by Abu Dhabi Festival, on
Thursday 19 May 2022, 19:00 BST:

Streamed online from

Recorded at LSO St Luke’s, Old Street

Mohammed Fairouz’ Symphony #5 WORLD PREMIERE

London Symphony Orchestra

Lee Reynolds conductor

The Abu Dhabi Festival presents the digital world premiere of Mohammed Fairouz' Symphony #5, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. The commission is the latest phase in a twelve-year relationship between the LSO and ADMAF which began when the LSO toured to Abu Dhabi with Sir Colin Davis.

This new commission from Abu Dhabi Festival has emerged from a twelve-year relationship with the LSO which began when the world-renowned orchestra performed at the Festival, for the first time in the Arab world, under the baton of the late Sir Colin Davis.

The premiere with the LSO forms part of the renowned Abu Dhabi Festival Abroad programme which presents Emirati artists abroad and to a global audience. Founded in 2004 and organised by ADMAF, the annual multidisciplinary Abu Dhabi Festival is the largest cultural celebration in the entire region and reaches across the world through co-commissions of great international artists and performers and the presentation of innovative Arab creativity around the globe. Abu Dhabi Festival strives to deepen global cross-cultural dialogue whilst inspiring a deeper interest in the cultures of the Arab world.

The performance was premiered as a free digital stream on Thursday 19 May 2022, available through YouTube and the ADMAF website: The live recording of the symphony took place in January 2022 at LSO St Luke’s under the baton of conductor Lee Reynolds. Here's the YouTube of the complete symphony:

Her Excellency Huda I. Alkhamis-Kanoo OBE, Founder of the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation, and Founder and Artistic Director of Abu Dhabi Festival, approached Emirati composer Mohammed Fairouz to write a symphony celebrating the culture and values of the United Arab Emirates, as part of Abu Dhabi Festival 2022.

Abu Dhabi Festival is thrilled to present an outstanding Emirati composer, Mohammed Fairouz, whose Symphony #5 celebrates the life and vision of Sheikh Zayed, the United Arab Emirates’ founding father. Sheikh Zayed shaped our nation and imparted upon us a spirit of tolerance and peace. We are delighted to be working again with the London Symphony Orchestra on this world premiere event conducted by Maestro Lee Reynolds. The enthusiasm of the London Symphony Orchestra to premiere this work leaves us in no doubt that it will be a global success.

Kathryn McDowell, Managing Director of the London Symphony Orchestra said:

The London Symphony Orchestra is delighted to (have been) be asked by the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation to (help them) celebrate their recent 25th anniversary, also marking the 50th anniversary of the UAE.  We congratulate Her Excellency Mrs Alkhamis Kanoo and her team on their continuing successes and their commitment to culture and the Arts. We hope you enjoy this performance of Mohammed Fairouz’s Fifth Symphony, specially commissioned by the Festival to mark the occasion.

Mohammed Fairouz’s Symphony #5 is inspired by the life of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the United Arab Emirates. The symphony explores the story of the UAE and its values of peace and tolerance in four movements, Alameen (Worlds)—Shapes, Harmony—The Ummah (Nation), Iqra (Read)—Infinite Variations, and Ascent—Line and Illumination.

The distinctive musical language of the composer Mohammed Fairouz melds Middle Eastern modes and Western structures to deeply expressive effect. Fairouz’ transatlantic upbringing across five continents has given him a truly cosmopolitan voice inspiring previous large-scale works including four symphonies and an opera, which engage major geopolitical and philosophical themes with persuasive craft.

The opening  is deeply expressive (some especially memorable quiet brass passages, beautifully rendered here by the LSO); it cedes to a sparkling allegro, beautifully, vibrantly scored. Fairouz' music is an intriguing mix of the gestural and the expansive, melodies flowering suddenly, full of optimism. farouz surely could hardly have hoped for a finer performance than this. When Fairouz layers his ideas, the clarity is astonishing - which allows us to appreciate Fairouz's compositional processes, of course.

Fairouz achieves tension and grandeur often through simple but remarkably effective processes. But maybe it is the beauty that speaks the most (or maybe just that our souls need it in these challenging times!). This is a piece that seems to challenge and yet to heal at the same time, with the final “Illumination” a pure expression of joy.

To create a 52-minute symphonic edifice in this manner is remarkable.

Ther eis no mssing those Middle Eastern modes when they appear; wh is really interesting his how Fairouz presents them alongside both tonal and slightly modernist Western harmonies, integrating them into a seamless whole.

The Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation is a chief driving force for culture, creativity and emerging local talent at the heart of the UAE. In December 2021, Abu Dhabi joined the likes of Liverpool, Auckland and Kingston in its official designation as a ‘City of Music’ by the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Over recent years, the Abu Dhabi Festival has welcomed world-renowned performers to the city including Sir Bryn Terfel, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Opera House, Vladimir Ashkenazy & the European Union Youth Orchestra, Gautier Capuçon, and Nicola Benedetti with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.

The 2022 Abu Dhabi Festival’s extensive international output also includes the co-commission EDEN featuring a worldwide tour with Joyce DiDonato and Il Pomo d’Oro, and new co-productions with the Teatro Real and the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence. Also premiering digitally this year is gifted Emirati composer Ihab Darwish’s Abrahamic Symphony, written in collaboration with Emmy-winning composer John Debney and Academy Award-winning composer David Shire. Bringing together top international composers, musicians and vocal ensembles from Christian, Jewish and Muslim backgrounds, the symphony celebrates unity and peace amongst different faiths.

The Abu Dhabi Festival is the principal partner of the week-long Arab Music Days celebration at Berlin’s Pierre Boulez Saal. Amidst a vast programme in Abu Dhabi, the Festival is featuring the new exhibition, Portrait of a Nation: Beyond Narratives, featuring 100 key artworks by 62 pivotal artists, tracing the UAE’s art history over 50 years of transformative development.

ADMAF nurtures the arts, education, culture and creativity in the UAE and beyond, with the belief that culture and the arts unlock a nation’s creativity and creates connections that transcend borders. ADMAF undertakes a broad range of initiatives and events each year to bring together diverse audiences in the UAE and internationally.

Held under the theme: Crafting the Emirates State of Mind: Creation, Innovation & Joy, the 19th edition of Abu Dhabi Festival 2022 is held under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Shamsa bint Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Nahyan and supported by Lead Partner Mubadala Investment Company (Mubadala) and Energy Partner GS Energy. Abu Dhabi Festival 2022 encompasses over 1,000 participating artists from around the world to present more than 300 performances and events. The 19th edition will also include two world tours and 17 world premieres.

The 2022 Abu Dhabi Festival programme is part of the contribution that the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation makes to the UAE capital’s designation as a UNESCO City of Music.

For more information on Abu Dhabi Festival’s upcoming events, please visit:, and find the Festival on: Facebook (@abudhabifestival), Twitter (@abudhabi_fest) and Instagram (@abudhabifestival).

Mohammed Fairouz

Emirati composer Mohammed Fairouz, born in 1985, was hailed by The New York Times as “an important new artistic voice” and by BBC World News as “one of the most talented composers of his generation.” In opera, symphony, chamber and solo works, he engages major geopolitical and philosophical themes to promote cultural communication and understanding. His third symphony, Poems and Prayers, interweaves texts of Arab and Israeli poets with prayers such as the Aramaic Kaddish. His fourth symphony, In the Shadow of No Towers, about American life in the aftermath of 9/11 premiered in 2013 at Carnegie Hall.

Abu Dhabi Festival

Under the Patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Shamsa bint Hamdan bin Mohamed Al Nahyan

Founded in 2004, the first Abu Dhabi Festival was held under the Patronage of His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the then Minister of Information and Culture (currently the UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation). The Festival was generously granted the Patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces from 2007 to 2011.

Abu Dhabi Festival is the festival of “Bilad Al Khayr”, the land of blessings, the land of Zayed. The Festival embraces the values of dialogue, tolerance, respect and peace.

Crafting the Emirates State of Mind: Creation, Innovation and Joy has its roots from the spirit of Bilad Al Khayr, as the annual Festival commissions, produces, preserves and presents the greatest works of music and art to create rich cultural experiences in the UAE and beyond.

Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF)

Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation (ADMAF) was established in 1996 as one of the earliest cultural foundations in the Gulf region and Arab World.  ADMAF supports the sustainability and creativity of the cultural industry and contributes to enriching Abu Dhabi as a Cultural beacon.

Huda I. Alkhamis-Kanoo

Huda I. Alkhamis-Kanoo is a patron of the arts who has dedicated her life to inspiring artists to create, generations to innovate and communities to unite and prosper. She worked tirelessly to found the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation (ADMAF) in 1996 and is also the Artistic Director of the jewel in its crown, the Abu Dhabi Festival, which she established in 2004.

Huda I. Alkhamis-Kanoo’s unquantifiable contribution to the UAE’s national cultural sector was recognised by H.H. President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan in 2006. His Highness appointed her to the Board of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture & Heritage (now Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi), on which she served until 2012.

Huda has received numerous awards for her dedication to the arts, education and women’s development, including The Abu Dhabi Award and Abu Dhabi Medal (conferred by H.H. General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi), the UN-affiliated Women Together Award, the Aspen Institute Emerging Voice Award for Cultural Stewardship, the Puccini Festival Foundation Award, an honorary doctorate from the American University of Paris, and the Middle East Institute’s Visionary Award, among many others.

Amongst the orders bestowed upon her are The Commander of the Royal Order of Isabella the Catholic (Orden de Isabel la Católica), conferred upon her by HM Juan Carlos, former King of Spain, by order of HM Philip IV, King of Spain; The Medal of Civil Merit of Spain; the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesverdienstkreuz); Commendatore dell’Ordine della Stella della Solidarietà of Italy; Chevalier de l’Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur of France; Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France; the Belgian Officer of the Order of the Crown, bestowed upon her by HM Albert II, King of Belgium; The Gloria Artis Medal of Poland; and the Order of the British Empire (OBE), bestowed upon her by HM Queen Elizabeth the Second.

She is co-chair of the Middle East Institute’s International Advisory Committee and is a member of the Institute’s board of Governors. She is also a member of the Cleveland Clinic International Leadership Board and the International Advisory Board of the Edinburgh International Festival, and she serves on the Lang Lang International Music Foundation’s International Patrons Circle and the International Circle of the Reina Sofía College of Music. She is also a founding member of the American Ballet Theatre’s Global Council, and she sits on the National Advisory Board of Zayed University – College of Arts and Creative Enterprises.

An Emirati National, the daughter of a pioneering Saudi businessman and a Syrian mother, Huda was born in Beirut, Lebanon. Raised at a crossroads of cultures, her education took her to the American College of Paris, where she studied French literature and art history. Huda returned to the region and settled in Abu Dhabi. She is married to businessman and artist Mohamed Abdul Latif Kanoo, a member of the prominent Yusuf bin Ahmed Kanoo business family, with whom she has three children, Abdul Latif, Noor and Abdul Rahman.

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