ELIE MAALOUF: “EVERY STUDENT MUST FIND THEIR OWN MUSICAL EXPRESSION”
BY CAROLINE CHAVIGNY
Elie Maalouf, from Lebanon, was self-taught until he came to Paris. He showed an amazing talent for the piano at a very young age, and was attracted to it in a way that even he cannot explain. “When the Vienna Philharmonic came to Beirut to play Beethoven’s 7 Symphony, it was a huge shock for me. It was a moment of intense emotion that I can still feel today. My parents had also taken me to see an operetta with the Lebanese singer Fairuz. I was just a boy, but they told me that afterwards I sang it all by heart. I was fascinated by that music.”
When he arrived in France at age 17, he was admitted to the Toulouse conservatory, then went to Paris the next year. His audition at the Académie de Versailles was successful, but since he didn’t live in the area, he went to the « Étampes conservatory », where he was taught by Billy Eidi. “Unlike all the other students, I hadn’t had any classical training, and I had spent a long time playing alone. My teacher said to me: ‘Luckily you don’t have any flaws despite having learned alone. At the same time, he took jazz piano courses at the American School of Modern Music, and courses in modern harmony with Bernard Maury, a friend of Bill Evans and the founder of the Bill Evans Piano Academy.
Elie Maalouf started writing music, and formed a trio with piano, bass, and oriental percussion instead of a drum set – a personal touch compared to standard jazz trios. His first album, « Through Life » came out in 2007. His atypical path allowed him to be equally at ease in the worlds of Western and Eastern music. He started teaching classes in 1997, and it is soon apparent that he does not have a traditional approach to teaching: “I’ve never used a ready-made method, everything depends on the student and on their personality, there’s psychology involved in piano lessons!”
And when he’s asked what’s important in a music course, he answers: “Students must understand that even if they are playing just one phrase, there is music there. There might be a different sound, or a personal expression.”
He names his favorite masters: they include illustrious pianists like Arthur Rubinstein, Emil Gilels, Vladimir Horowitz, Sviatoslav Richter, Vlado Perlemuter, Dinu Lipatti, Samson François, and Walter Gieseking in classical; and Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, Art Tatum, Hank Jones, Tommy Flanagan, Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, Enrico Pieranunzi, and Brad Mehldau in jazz. “It’s hard to mention some without mentioning the others,” he tells me. “In jazz, if I had to mention just one, it would be Bill Evans ».
THE BUZUQ SPECIALIST
As a true fan of music, sounds, and materials, Elie Maalouf wears several hats. He has become the specialist in the buzuq, a lute played in Lebanon, Syria, and part of Palestine by Kurds and gypsies. “This instrument comes from popular culture, but it’s not common. The day I found one was a revelation. I played some for a few days.Then i invested in making one of my own – which is more difficult than making an oud. I worked with two luthiers in Lebanon to get an instrument suitable to today’s tastes. One of those luthiers has become the world specialist in manufacturing buzuqs! We made one with exceptional hundred-year-old wood. This music is above all linked to a culture ».
Today, Elie Maalouf gives conferences and concerts using this instrument, passing on both knowledge and music.
Take a few minutes to escape all worries and stress with this (https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=EhkJcvn0AW0) mystical Elie Maalouf performance.
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