KHF Outreach
Benefit Concert to Save the Amman Symphony Orchestra Strikes a Poignant Chord Among Music Lovers
20th April 2012
Benefit Concert to Save the ASO April 18, 2012

His long tapered fingers appeared to dance across the keys of the Steinway grand piano as the audience sat enraptured in the auditorium of the Al Hussein Cultural Center.


The Swiss visiting pianist Timon Altwegg performed a concerto by composer Edward Grieg with the Amman Symphony Orchestra (ASO) during this week's benefit concert to "Save the Amman Symphony Orchestra."  The concert pianist who is in demand throughout the world as a specialist in chamber music and soloist recalls the impact that hearing symphony orchestra concerts had on his life when he was only 7 or 8 years old.


"I remember several concerts where I was very moved," said Altwegg, "I didn't know why…but I really thought I was quite concentrated and then certainly felt feelings which I didn't think I could feel."


These experiences, which he describes as "snap shots" coincided with his first piano lessons.   

Audience member Mounir Ennenbach also began studying music at an early age; the attentive youth listened to Altwegg's performance Wednesday night in addition to the rest of the program performed by the ASO which included Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's overture from "The Marriage of Figaro" and Johann Strauss II's "Emperor Waltz" under the baton of French visiting conductor Alain Paris.

The young pianist who grew up in Jordan admits his love of classical music was inspired by sibling rivalry when his parents allowed his older sister to begin studying piano at the age of 7. 

Last month the 18-year old got his revenge by performing "Rhapsody in Blue" by George Gershwin with the ASO during a special concert for Mother's Day. 

Mounir believes that having a professional symphony orchestra is important and that a musical community provides a positive outlet for the youth:

"I'm more culturally aware and I'm more able to enjoy myself during my free time," he explained, "it's an outlet, it's great to be part of a musical community, I think that's why we should preserve it here in Jordan."

His piano teacher, musician and composer Agnes Basheer, says the Amman Symphony Orchestra has an important role to play in Jordan.

"We need music in the country," explained Basheer, "and the Amman Symphony Orchestra is providing this opportunity for people to be introduced to classical music, to different types of music ... and this orchestra has this role; the role of introducing people to music, not only solo playing but also as an orchestra as another musical body."

A loss of public funding means that the Amman Symphony Orchestra and the Amman Arab Music Ensemble (AAME) may have to disband completely at the end of the 2011-2012 concert season following their final performance in July.

A newly formed support group, called "The Friends of Amman Symphony Orchestra" is trying to prevent that from happening; they have launched a campaign using social media to "Save the Amman Symphony Orchestra" and are working to raise donations to fund both the ASO and the AAME. But whether they'll be able to accomplish this goal without the restoration of public funding remains in doubt.

Longtime music supporter Karim Bawab, one of the founders of the National Music Conservatory, says he doesn't think the ASO will be able to survive without government aid.

He also believes having a symphony orchestra is vital for the conservatory:

"An orchestra, for a conservatory," said Bawab, "is like [having] a hospital for a medical university."

National Music Conservatory Director Kifah Fakhouri points out that without a symphony orchestra, students will lose interest in studying music. He poses a rhetorical question:

"Why should they go on studying music if there is no profession for musicians?"

He adds that students will eventually lose hope and move onto something else. A development that those in attendance at Wednesday's benefit concert do not want to see happen.

Concert goer Dr. Ahmed Budeiri remarked that the ASO is "a monument for Jordan and it's a great thing for Jordan and we should all collaborate to make it happen and continue."

That's exactly what the National Music Conservatory and "The Friends of the Amman Symphony Orchestra" have vowed to do, but whether they'll achieve their goal depends largely on the response to their appeal to save the only professional symphony orchestra in the Kingdom.

 "I thinks it's good for the image of the country and good for the image of the capital to have an orchestra," remarked audience member Andre Ushakov, "to have their own orchestra."


Visiting pianist Timon Altwegg agrees, holding up a bright bouquet of red and yellow flowers as applause filled the auditorium Wednesday night.  The one question he cannot answer right now, however, is if he'll be back for an encore performance with the ASO next year.

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