Lebanese composer Rabih Abou-Khalil was the natural choice for German television channel ZDF; in cooperation with Arte and the Munich Film Museum, when they decided to put new symphonic music to a German silent film set in Jerusalem. The 1922 classic film Nathan the Wise, is a dramatisation of German writer Gotthold Ephraim Lessin's 1779 lyrical drama; a parable celebrating religous tolerance and a plea for humanity.No apologies for quoting a CD sleeve note verbatim or for reproducing the gatefold photo complete with fold lines. They both come from Trouble in Jerusalem which has just been released on Enja Records. The sleeve note quote says it all, except that the recording was made with Rabih Abou-Khalil oud, Michel Godard tuba and serpent, Jarrod Cagwin frame drums with the German Youth Orchestra (Bundesjugendorchester) conducted by Frank Strobel and sound design by Walter Quintus. The backstory makes this is one of the more interesting and deserving projects that has come my way recently. But it is most definitely symphonic film music and more for fans of Maurice Jarre than Arnold Schoenberg; but I guess that also applies to Philip Glass' score for Kundun. More enterprising Enja releases here.
The story takes place during the Third Crusade in 1192 A.D. and chronicles a short-lived moment of co-existence between the world's three foremost monotheistic religions. The film's producer, Erich Wagowski and his acclaimed director Manfred Noa, stuck closely to Lessin's plot in their cinematic interpretation of this classic literary work. The outcome was political cinema, and one of the earliest "films for humanity". Intensifying nazism during the Weimar Republic however, and Hitler's imminent rise to power, were not receptive to anything with semitic sympathies. The film was banned and subsequently all copies were destroyed. Thought to be lost forever, the Munich Film Museum was delighted to discover the sole surviving copy in 1996 in Russian film archives in Moscow.
Rabih Abou-Khalil is no stranger to civil and religous discord. Growing up in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war and originating from the Bekaa Valley. "the land of milk and honey", he has witnessed both the destructiveness of intolerance and of religous discord and, in a parallel manner to Lessing's drama, also observed the beauty of harmony in times of cooperation.
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