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Solhi Al-Wadi, doyen of Syrian classical music, dies at 75

By dpa news     Sep 30, 2007 in Entertainment
Solhi al-Wadi, the doyen of classical music in Syria, died early Sunday at al-Shami Hospital in Damascus, Syria's official News Agency reported. He was 75.
Solhi Al-Wadi was born in Damascus in 1935 the son of an Iraqi father and a Syrian mother.
After an early childhood spent in Damascus, he was sent to a boarding school in Alexandria then after graduation continued his studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London.
On his return to Syria, al-Wadi established the Arab Institute of Music in 1961, becoming its director in 1962, a post he held until 2001.
Manal Ghabash, administrative director of the institute, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa: "We have lost an amazing artist, who had given music a lot ... It was really a big loss."
He had been bed-ridden the past five years after suffering a severe stroke on stage, she said.
Al-Wadi's list of accomplishments included his establishment of the Syrian National Symphony Orchestra, which performed its first opera in 1995 and which performs annual concerts in Damascus and has recently performed successful concerts in Lebanon and the United States.
He was appointed Dean of the Higher Institute of Music in 1990. He single-handedly supervised the nurturing of a whole generation of talented young musicians, including Ghazwan Zirkli, Riad Sukkar, Arfan Hanbali, his own daughter Hamsa Al-Wadi, and many other talented artists.
His combined role as an educator, director, conductor, and first- class mass-media communicator did not prevent him from continuously composing original music and re-orchestrating major traditional and folklore music suitable for presentation by a philharmonic orchestra.
Incidental music for films brought Al-Wadi fame all around the Arab world, but the finest examples of his music can be found in his compositions for chamber music.
His presentation of Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas" in 1995 is considered a major event in Syria's cultural history.
Al-Wadi was awarded the Syrian Order of Merit of the First Class for his services to the cultural and musical life of Syria.
He is survived by a British wife Cynthia, his son Sarmad and daughters Hamsa and Diala. He was to be buried Sunday afternoon in Damascus. dpa opc ds
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