In a word, Polyphony is about harmony. The Nazareth-based organization was initiated by locally-born, and then Berlin-resident, violinist Nabil Abboud-Ashkar in 2006. Its first incarnation was as a western classical music conservatory with 25 students and 4 teachers.
The facility grew incrementally until, in 2011, Abboud-Ashkar joined forces with Jewish-American social entrepreneur couple Craig and Deborah Cogut to launch the Polyphony Foundation. The new venture’s declared expanded intent was “to support efforts to bring together Arab and Jewish children in Israel by offering them equal opportunities in music.”
The organization also holds major events from time to time. Next up is Seasons, with two music-dance performances lined up for the Berkovich Auditorium in Nazareth Elite on February 25 and 26 (both 8 p.m.), featuring the Staatsballett Berlin dance company led by Armenian-born choreographer-dancer Arshak Ghalumyan and Bulgarian-born dancer Krasina Pavlova.
The show cast also includes Nadine Marshi and Aseel Qupty, alumni of Danceworks Berlin and the Al-Amal dance school in Nazareth, as well as current students from Al-Amal. The Polyphony ensemble, led by Abboud-Ashkar, will provide the sonic underpinning together with soprano vocalist Nur Darwish.
As the name of the show infers, the score primarily feeds off Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, but there will be some contemporary items in the musical side of the program too. One of those will be provided by Haifa-born Germany-resident composer and pianist Faris Badarni who celebrates his 30th birthday on the day of the first performance in Nazareth Elite.
Badarni started out on the strictly classical side, at the Rubin Conservatory in Haifa where he studied classical piano, music theory, and art history. After relocating to Germany, with support from Polyphony, he spread his creative wings by taking a degree in Film Music Composition at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Munich. Three years later, in 2020, he completed a master’s in composition at the same institution.
The realms he explored in Munich found their way into his output and, thus far, he has built up a score portfolio that embraces an eclectic mixture of classical, jazz and electronic sounds and rhythms.
Badarni says he was always looking to dip his toes in variegated stylistic waters. “I got exposed to all of that in my bachelor’s degree,” he explains. “I studied film music composition and, through that, I got exposed to different things.”
He says it was a boundary-flexing experience which has led to bigger and better things for him. “You get exposed to films, and soundtracks, and music production, and digital work.” And a range of genres which fuel the toolbox. “You get to work in classical music and jazz and electronic music. All of that might be needed for film music, together with audiovisual production.”
In the interim, Badarni has written and recorded a suitably varied body of work, including orchestral and solo piano pieces, as well as electronic numbers and even a pop-oriented song with vocals. The ensemble album is called Miniatures for Orchestra which resonates the idea of a measured approach to music and life one may not ordinarily associate with a composer of such relatively tender years.
The expansive swirls of sumptuous textures on the record put one in mind of romantic style efforts of 1940s and early 1950s movie music. Listening to that you would never think that Badarni is into electronic stuff too. But even that is on the softer, though unmistakably rhythmic, side.
INDEED, BADARNI comes across as a gentle soul who seems to be perfectly happy to let matters run their natural course rather than forcing a frenetic pace. Then again, he has already produced an impressive spread of scores that suggest he doesn’t exactly sit around twiddling his thumbs waiting for the muses to arrive and kick start some new venture.
Having studied and subsequently worked in the cinematic sector Badarni felt it was time to move on. “I steered away from the movie music industry,” he says. “I wanted to have more freedom to create music that would otherwise not function with a movie, because it is its own thing. I guess, for my own ego, I wanted to have more freedom,” he chuckles.
Badarni’s professional trajectory
That seems to be a recurrent theme in Badarni’s professional trajectory which, by definition, should be a fundamental factor of any creator’s timeline. There is certainly plenty of room for cerebral and emotional maneuver in Piano Miniatures, a record Badarni put together in 2017.
“That happened at the end of my bachelor’s,” he recalls. “I was composing anyway and, at some point, I noticed I have enough piano sketches and I could make an album out of it. I played and recorded it. I would say, of all of my works, it is a very personal one.”
An alluring one it is too. It also conjures up thoughts of impressionist music which, it transpires, is no coincidence. “I love [late 19th – early 20th-century French composer Claude] Debussy’s music,” Badarni notes. “I love impressionist music. I would say it is a huge influence on me, especially the works that are more introverted. I really appreciated [Debussy compatriot contemporary Maurice] Ravel, especially his orchestration and his nuanced work. That inspired me a lot in writing for orchestra.”
Piano Miniatures is very much in the Seasons mix, as is Miniatures for Orchestra albeit with some logistical adaptations. “Since we do not have a full-blown orchestra I did an arrangement for it, for a string section. So there will be piano and strings as well.”
The diminutive epithet which recurs in Badarni’s work titles reflect his structural approach. “Some pieces are three minutes long, some are ten minutes.” Short, as far as he is concerned, is the essential focused way to go. “They are not symphonies, like half an hour long. They are more compact. I feel like I don’t want to overstay my welcome,” he laughs.
There does not seem to be much chance of that happening in the Galilee later this week. It will probably be an emotional experience for the young composer as he gets a chance to give something back to the organization that helped him along his creative way. “This is the first time my music will be performed through Polyphony,” he says. “It is special to have my music performed in Nazareth. It has a different impact on how I perceive the music.”
Simply put, it is great for Badarni to come home. “When you visualize a concert experience with people of a mentality with which you grew up it is more personal. In Germany, when I do concerts, not many people there know me, and I have less of an emotional connection compared with home. It feels good to be here. It feels more personal. I’m really looking forward to it.”
For tickets and more information: *6119 and www.goshow.co.il