Karim Al-Zand: Music: Leila


song cycle for baritone & guitar with optional string quartet

The name ‘Leila’ (or ‘Laila’) is a trope in classical Arabic poetry. She represents an ideal object of romantic love, but a love which is ultimately unrequited. imageThe history of Leila, as this symbol of longing, begins with the 7th century poet Quais Ibn al-Mulawwah. As the story goes, the young poet became infatuated with his beautiful cousin, Leila. As their love for one another grew, Mulawwah began to express his romantic desire in poems of intense passion. These so angered Leila’s family that the two were never allowed to wed. Soon Leila was married to another man, an event which ultimately caused the sensitive poet to lose his sanity. He spent the rest of his days wandering the country in search of Leila and professing his love for her in verse. He has since became universally known as ‘Majnun Leila’ (‘majnun’ literally means ‘mad’). His poetry deals almost exclusively with his unrequited love for Leila. (Pictured above is Leila and Majnun by Mohammad Hourian, Hourian Art Galleries)

The texts set here are ‘Leila poems’ from diverse sources, some attributed to Majnun Leila, others by later poets incorporating the symbol. The poems are arranged in a quasi-narrative fashion, divided into roughly three sections: Majnun’s initial affection for Leila; his despair at her loss; and the poet’s undiminished love for her in old age. The guitar has the principle accompanying voice in the work. The optional string quartet, if included, plays a supporting role in the ensemble, rather like a continuo part.

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10 minutes

baritone (B2–Ab4*), guitar, with optional string quartet (2 violins, viola, cello)

February 7, 2001, Tsai Performance Center Boston MA
Alea III: Theodore Antoniou, conductor;
Mark Aliapoulios, baritone | Luiz Mantovani, guitar | Mark Berger & Kaveh Saidi, violins | Sandra Nortier, viola | Mark Simcox, cello