Tag: Egypt

Uqbāl mīt Sanah, Aziz El-Shawan

Aziz El-Shawan (1916-1993) was twentieth-century Egypt’s most prominent composer. His collection of manuscript scores, including finished works, sketches and miscellaneous other materials — is held here at Harvard’s Loeb Music Library, and we are excited to announce that the Aziz El-Shawan Collection of Manuscript Scores is now fully processed, with nearly all of its contents digitized and freely available online.

In this half-body photographic portrait, the composer Aziz El-Shawan is depicted wearing a three-piece dark suit and looking into the distance.

Portrait of Aziz El-Shawan. From the private collection of Salwa El-Shawan Castelo-Branco.

After Egypt’s Soviet Cultural Center was founded in 1952, El-Shawan served as its director for fifteen years, which afforded him opportunities to travel to Moscow, where he befriended and eventually studied with renowned Soviet composer Aram Khachaturian, whose influence on the development of El-Shawan’s composition style was profound.

El-Shawan was a prolific composer of songs, symphonies, symphonic poems, ballets, choral works, cantatas, operas, concertos, suites, and chamber music. He considered Western tonal music to be an “international musical language” and created a new musical idiom in which he wrote for both Western and Egyptian instruments.

His best-known work, Anās El-Wugūd, was the first Egyptian opera with Arabic language and content to reach the stage. It was first performed in Cairo in 1996.

Several people in colorful traditional Egyptian costumes stand on a short flight of steps.

A scene from the 1996 premiere of Anās El-Wugūd at the Cairo Opera House. From the private collection of Salwa El-Shawan Castelo-Branco.

From our collection, here are select pages of his manuscripts of the opera’s full score and vocal score.

Pages 18-19 of the orchestral score of Aziz El-Shawan's opera Anās El-Wugūd, written by the composer himself. Several lines of music spread across a tall sheets of ruled staff paper, with orchestral number 7 at the top of page 19 in red ink.

Anās El-Wugūd (full score). Aziz El-Shawan Collection of Manuscript Scores. Ms. Coll. 155, Box 5.

 

Pages 205-206 of the vocal score of Aziz El-Shawan's opera Anās El-Wugūd, copied by the composer himself. Several systems of music spread across a tall sheets of ruled staff paper, with Arabic text underlay and annotations.

Anās El-Wugūd (vocal score). Aziz El-Shawan Collection of Manuscript Scores. Ms. Coll. 155, Box 7.

Our finding aid for the Aziz El-Shawan Collection of Manuscript Scores contains information about each piece, along with links to electronic copies of all the pieces we have digitized.

And in honor of May 6th being the 104th anniversary of El-Shawan’s birth date, here from our collection is a birthday song that he composed (with lyrics by Nabilah Qandil), titled Uqbāl mīt Sanah.

The three-page autograph manuscript score of Aziz El-Shawan’s song Uqbāl mīt Sanah (Happy Birthday to You). Apart from the English translation on the title page, the score text is in Arabic.

Uqbāl mīt Sanah (Happy Birthday to You). Aziz El-Shawan Collection of Manuscript Scores. Ms. Coll. 155, Box 6.

This post was written by Josh Kantor, Assistant Keeper of the Isham Memorial Library. The Aziz El-Shawan Collection is available to view online. Interested researchers may view the rest of the collection by appointment. When the Harvard library buildings re-open, click View in Library in the HOLLIS record for the Aziz El-Shawan Collection of Manuscript Scores and tell us when you would like to visit.

On the radio in Cairo, 1982

We are proud to announce that the Aziz El-Shawan Manuscript Score Collection is now fully cataloged and available for use in the Isham Memorial Library.

Born in Cairo in 1916, El-Shawan was educated in France and in Russia. He spent most of his life in Egypt, where he composed music in a wide variety of genres for Western instruments and for traditional Egyptian instruments such as the nai and qanun. Aziz El-Shawan died in 1993.

There appears to be no English-language scholarship on El-Shawan apart from a short article in Grove music online which mentions the “rhythmically rich melodies and folk elements” of his music. The finding aid to this collection is thus the only known published catalogue of El-Shawan’s compositions. The collection represents the composer’s entire manuscript legacy and consists primarily of music scores, as well as such language material as El-Shawan’s Arabic-language book about opera, Al-Opera. There are works for solo instruments and large instrumental ensembles, and ballet, opera and songs.

To highlight just one item in this remarkable collection, the composition and performance of the cantata Eḥna Maṣr, Enta Maṣr is represented here by manuscript libretto, manuscript orchestral and chorus parts, manuscript full score, and correspondence: it is accompanied by a letter from Fathi ‘Abd Al-Hamid, who wrote the text, to El-Shawan, and in the letter, dated May 1, 1982, the poet discusses the recording of the cantata for broadcast by an unnamed Cairo radio station.

Eḥna Maṣr, Enta Maṣr (Ms. Coll. 155, Box 9)

Eḥna Maṣr, Enta Maṣr (Ms. Coll. 155, Box 9)

The Loeb Music Library also holds three commercial recordings of works by Aziz El-Shawan:

  • The Bb minor piano concerto, featuring the Orchestre de la Cinematographie de Moscou under the direction of Aram Khachaturian, with whom El-Shawan studied in Moscow in 1967. This recording was made in Cairo in the 1971-72 concert season, at the very end of a long period of close political and cultural reciprocity between Egypt and the Soviet Union.
  • A collection of symphonic music inspired by Omani traditional melodies and genres, apparently commissioned by the Sultanate of Oman Ministry of Information in 1985.
  • A two-cassette compilation of El-Shawan’s choral and orchestral music, recorded in Egypt in the early 1990s.

The finding aid for the Aziz El-Shawan Manuscript Score Collection was prepared by Harvard Divinity School graduate student Farah Zahra with support from Assistant Keeper of Isham Memorial Library Joshua Kantor and using some metadata created by former Music Library staff members Robert Cunningham, Douglas Freundlich and Virginia Danielson.

The Isham Memorial Library is the special collections library adjunct to the Loeb Music Library. It is open Monday to Friday, nine to five.

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