Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Wael Farouk -the art of doing one thing well

Egyptian Piano Phenomenon Studies at Converse College -Connections Online Magazine (October 2007 issue)

Converse graduate student and pianist Wael Farouk was turned away from the Cairo Conservatory of Music when he was seven years old.

It wasn't because of his grades; they were exceptional. It wasn't because of his age; young students are not unusual. The reason? His small hands. But Wael and his father managed to convince the administration to just give him a chance. They did, and Wael began what would become a 15-year tenure of studying at the conservatory with consistent high marks.
"Ever since I was a boy, I have had to prove that I can play piano no matter what people say," said the 23-year-old. "People do different things well, and piano is the only thing I do well -even with my small hands. I do it through faith, will, and my trust in God."

Wael became the first Egyptian to ever play the Rachmaninoff's Third Concerto, and debuted the piece with the Cairo Symphony Orchestra in 2002. "That moment was the highest and happiest in my life," said Wael. This piece is extremely demanding for any pianist, and it has the longest stretch at the keyboard ever recorded. Wael debuted the piece in Russia in 2003, and he was invited back to play it again this March...

I had never seen Wael Farouk before his recital at Steinway Pianos in Downers Grove, Illinois, on April 18, 2009. When he took the stage, I couldn't help but notice his very small stature and similarly small hands. I confess I felt a little disappointed, my expectations diminished, for the Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, and Rachmaninoff on his program -as well as the Steinway Model D- promised to demand more power than Mr. Farouk could possibly be expected to deliver.

Never will I forget my astonishment, which remains vivid today, ten months later. Mr. Farouk's performance of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition was bold, exciting, full of color and power.

The Rachmaninoff Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor, Op. 36, was unfamiliar and new to me. But Mr. Farouk did not simply play the piece so much as conjure a hurricane, an impassioned and unstoppable force that burst from the piano and unleashed its fury on all present.

I couldn't have been more wrong when I expected a pint-size performance from this physically small man. I thought I knew better than to judge a book by its cover, yet I misjudged this artist before hearing him. Wael Farouk helped me to see more clearly that making the piano speak to the heart depends much more on the heart than on the hands.

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