Salzburg contemporary • Islam • Mahmoud: Al-Hallağ 


  • 22 July, 21:00


HOSSAM MAHMOUD • Seelenfäden
for Sufi choir, mixed choir and ensemble based on a text by Sufi mystic Mansur al-Hallağ (858-922)
(World premiere, work commissioned by the Salzburg Festival)


End of concert approx. 22:30. 

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Hossam Mahmoud, Overall Direction
Al-Tariqa al-Gazoulia
Salzburger Bachchor
Alois Glaßner, Chorus Master
œnm . österreichisches ensemble für neue musik


The Salzburg Festival congratulates Hossam Mahmoud on winning the 2013 Grand Arts Prize of the State of Salzburg

19 NOV2013

posted in: Concert, General

Hossam Mahmoud commissioned to write Seelenfäden for the 2014 Salzburg Festival

The Salzburg Festival is delighted that the 2013 Grand Arts Prize of the State of Salzburg has been awarded to Hossam Mahmoud. During the 2014 Festival summer, the Ouverture spirituelle and the series Salzburg contemporary will each feature one of the composer’s works. “This decision by the jury results in double encouragement for Hossam Mahmoud's creative work during difficult times: on the one hand, there is the 2014 programming of the Salzburg Festival, on the other, this important and generously endowed prize of the State of Salzburg,” Festival President Helga Rabl-Stadler emphasises.

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Salzburg contemporary is sponsored by Roche
Youth! Arts! Science!

The central figure of the three concerts is the Sufi master and martyr Mansur Al-Hallağ, born ca. 858, whose radical views on faith attracted an immense number of followers among the people of Iran and Iraq on the one hand: up to 4,000 people would congregate to hear him preach. On the other hand, he made implacable enemies among the powerful and among orthodox Muslims, who accused him of heresy, made him languish in prison for years and finally executed him brutally in 922. Al-Hallağ preached love as the only way towards freedom, and he was convinced of the possibility of each person’s union with god. Right until his violent end, which he is said to have accepted with a smile, he claimed: ‘I am truth.’
His last words, reported by his followers, form the basis of Hossam Mahmoud’s composition Seelenfäden, or Soul Threads. The composer, born in Cairo in 1965, has promoted cultural dialogue for years; his work tells an Islamic story which gives the listener insights into this world and is told by Sufi musicians and singers, Salzburg’s Bach Choir and the Austrian new music ensemble oenm.
The Palestinian-Israeli composer Samir Odeh-Tamimi, born in 1970, who has engaged in an intensive exploration of Koran recitation and rituals rooted in Islam for several years now, is also fascinated by Al-Hallağ: ‘He is among the most important philosophers and poets of Islamic mysticism; his texts and poems are influential to this day. In my work for the Salzburg Festival, I react not only to his poems, but also to his personality. The instrumentation (for large choir, four brass players and two percussionists) allows me to divide singers and musicians into different groups and distribute them throughout the space – this is reminiscent of traditional Sufi rituals in which those praying slowly move in a circle, playing certain rhythms on various percussion instruments. In my new work, however, not the singers, but the sound it-self will move through the space, taking into account the special circumstances at Salzburg’s Kollegienkirche.’
The third world premiere of this focus is a contribution by the Egyptian composer Amr Okba, who currently divides his time between Vienna and Cairo. Born in 1972, he also draws on his musical roots for inspiration. His symphonic poem composed for Salzburg is based on the novel Rhadopis of Nubia by Nobel Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz, set in ancient Egypt. According to the composer, its subject is ‘the responsibility and loyalty of rulers towards their subjects, and how religion and faith can be abused for political purposes – in this case, by the priests’.

Ronny Dietrich


Concert 2014

by Alexander Pereira and Florian Wiegand

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A recording of this concert will be broadcast by ORF on Monday, July 28, at 11:03 pm on the Ö1 channel.

All information is subject to change.