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Listen What the Cat Dragged In: Music by Naji Hakim

available at AmazonHakim plays Hakim,
Organ Works
Najim Hakim
Signum Classics SIGCD-222

available at AmazonN.Hakim, Set Me As a Seal...,
Organ & Chamber Works
Najim Hakim, R.Tawil, J-P.Kuzma,
Quatuor de la Chapelle Royale
Signum Classics SIGCD-245

For eight years Naji Hakim had been the organist at Sacre Cœur when he became the successor of Olivier Messiaen at Église de la Sainte-Trinité and its two Cavaillé-Coll organs. He remained in that position until 2008. Who would have thought, just The Lebanese-French-Catholic eventual-student of Jean Langlais’ only went to Paris because his engineering studies in Beirut were interrupted—and at first he continued at the Télécom ParisTech before being egged on by Langlais to enter the Conservatoire de Paris. From then on, it’s been a constant stream of awards and prizes for Hakim, not just for his playing but also for his compositions and—by Pope Benedict—for his distinguished service to the faith. If Ratzinger likes Hakim’s music, it not only speaks to the strong musical bone the Pope has got in his body but also suggests susceptibility to humor, because that is perhaps the most distinguishing quality of Hakim’s output.

To Call My True Love To My Dance, Finale (excerpt)

I didn’t stumble across Hakim and his music until this September (I wasn't there when he was in DC in 2006, but Charles reported) when I heard “Arabesques pour orgue” at the ARD Competition (not included on these discs), to which Hakim had contributed the commissioned composition that every semi-finalist had to perform. What I wrote about Arabesques (“the work is, in short, a hoot—any piece of music that makes me grin, smile, seat-dance, and laugh in a concert setting has already won my heart… and [this] rollicking romp… does all that”) is true for the works on “Hakim plays Hakim”, too. The organist/composer loves the exuberant, the obviously playful, he cherishes movement and abandon. Song and dance are at the heart of more than just the “Arabesques” suite for organ (so its preface), as are the sometimes faint, sometimes strong Middle Eastern influences.

The chamber music with and without organ on “Set Me As a Seal Upon Your Heart” is different, less obviously ‘Hakim’. Variations on Carl Nielsen (Påskeblomst for string quartet) start things off in harmoniously-romantic manner, softly melting—then wildly veering—southwards in their varied course. The Variations on “Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern” sound like one of Rheinberger’s Organ-Violin Sonatas if the composer had traveled just a little further eastward. The Magnificat is soars prettily (borderline hokey), just as soprano Rima Tawil howls her way through “Set me as a Seal” and “Amazing Grace” in hyper-romanticized manner: forgettable low points of an otherwise wonderful CD. The Capriccio presents Hakimesque high jinks at their best; Die Taube enriches (!) the repertoire with a work for string quartet and voice.

Morgenstern Variations, Largo (excerpt)

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