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Waleed Howrani in Concert at Assembly Hall
James Melvin Peet (1922-2007)
AUB's Cat Program
February - March 2008 Vol. 9 No. 5


Waleed Howrani in Concert at Assembly Hall

Waleed Howrani

With the Saeed Akl prize, the Lebanese Medals of Cedars and Merit, and honors from Beirut's Lions Club, the Lebanese American University Alumni, as well as the Hariri and Makhzoumi Foundations all to his credit, expatriate pianist Waleed Howrani is no stranger to Lebanon.

Nor is he a stranger to the American University of Beirut, where he has since 1967 enjoyed performing for his loyal fans at Assembly Hall, which he refers to as "the Carnegie Hall of Lebanon." And it was at Assembly Hall that on January 31 he gave his latest concert, organized by the AUB Alumni Association, Beirut.

The program was an eclectic mixture of German, Russian, Hungarian, Italian, and French classical music. Howrani started the evening with Bach's "Well-Tempered Clavier," written by the famous musician at the age of 37. Although Italian composer Dominico Scarlatti wrote seven operas and numerous sacred and secular cantatas, his fame according to Howrani rests in his sonatas, three of which he performed during the evening. Works by Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, and Chopin followed, and the concert concluded with loud applause for Howrani's rendition of Franz Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, a dazzling piece whose appeal Howrani attributed in part to "its roots in gypsy folk tunes."

After completion of his studies at Moscow's Tachaikovsky Conservatory in 1973, Howrani appeared in the Middle East to critical acclaim and enormous success. His concert at Assembly Hall is one of many musical events he has held in Lebanon. In fact, Howrani grew up in Beirut, where he studied piano with Sonia Aharonian and Zvart Sarkissian. At 13, he came to the attention of the late composer, Aram Khatchatourian, who was responsible for his receiving scholarships to study in Russia.

Establishing himself as a significant new talent in classical music, Howrani was awarded the Certificate of Honor at the Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition at the age of 18 and was the laureate in the Queen Elizabeth of Belgium Competition two years later. His talent was confirmed by subsequent concert tours in the USSR, Eastern and Western Europe, the Middle East, Canada, and the United States.