Naji Hakim

Composer and organist




Naji Subhy Paul Irénée HAKIM was born in Beirut , 31 October, 1955. He studied with Jean Langlais (organ), Evelyne Aïello (conducting), and at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris - classes of Roger Boutry (harmony), Jean-Claude Henry (counterpoint), Marcel Bitsch (fugue), Rolande Falcinelli (organ), Jacques Castérède (analysis) and Serge Nigg (orchestration), where he was awarded seven first prizes. He is a licentiate teacher in organ from Trinity College of Music in London and won ten first prizes at international organ and composition competitions. In 1991 he was awarded the Prix André Caplet from the Académie des Beaux-Arts and in 2009 the Premier Prix du Concours de Musique Sacrée de la Cathédrale de Monaco. At first organist of the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur, Paris from 1985 until 1993, he then became organist of l'église de la Trinité, in succession to Olivier Messiaen, from 1993 until 2008. He is professor of musical analysis at the Conservatoire National de Région de Boulogne-Billancourt, and visiting professor at the Royal Academy of Music, London. He is a graduate of the École Nationale Supérieure des Télécommunications in Paris, member of the Consociatio Internationalis Musicae Sacrae in Rome and Doctor honoris causa of the Pontifical University Saint-Esprit of Kaslik, Lebanon . In 2007, His Holiness Pope Benediktus XVI has awarded Naji Hakim The Augustae crucis insigne pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, for his excellent commitment and work for the benefit of the Church and the Holy Father. His works include instrumental music (organ, flute, bassoon, horn, trumpet, harp, guitar, violin, piano), symphonic music (Les Noces de l'Agneau, Hymne de l'Univers, Ouverture Libanaise, Påskeblomst, Augsburger Symphonie, four organ concertos, a violin concerto, a piano concerto), and vocal music (oratorio Saul de Tarse, cantata Phèdre, Magnificat and four masses).



What does music mean to you personally?

„Music is the word of the unspeakable.“ This makes reference to the verse 14 of John’s Gospel Chapter 1 : « And the Word was made flesh ». I live in the Holy presence of God and wish that all my activities including music serve and glorify him by inspiring Joy to the heart of the listeners.

Do you agree that music is all about fantasy?

If fantasy (from Greek phantasia) is the „power of imagination“, the inspiration, then it is a manifestation of a divine grace. As in other arts, it is a beautiful reward stemming out of order, logic, rigor, technique, craftmanship, time, patience, obstination, calculation and reason.

If you were not a professional musician, what would you have been?

Your humble servant : shoe shiner, server in a fine dining restaurant or teacher.

The classical music audience is getting old, are you worried about your future?

« Worry » whether in music, health, geopolitics, or in any other field is a common disease of our time thirsting more than ever for the « above all ». But I have the conviction that “The beauty of the beauties («pulchritudo pulchrorum omnium») will save the world". (Dostoyevsky and Saint Augustin) Future of music is to be considered through a distant scale of observation of the past centuries, with the « hope » (a theological virtue) that we are getting to a new « renaissance ». I hope the resurrection of folklore and the rediscovery of the treasures of the past be parts of it. « Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. » Mat. 6, 34

What do you envision the role of classical music to be in the 21 century? Do you see that there is a transformation of this role?

Having been teaching music analysis for 30 years, I realise how important it is to maintain a genealogical line with the composers of the past and follow their examples. As Verdi writes: „Tornate all'antico e sarà un progresso. » (Let us turn to the past: that will be progress.)

There is certainly a distorsion in the course of genealogy, coinciding with the Arnold Schönberg’s dodecaphonic series system and its plural troubling consequences, or by several philosophical/ideological currents. But as we say in French : « Chassez le naturel, il revient au galop » (when what is natural is driven off, it returns at a gallop). In this respect, Olivier Messiaen’s following sentence is self-explanatory : " Musique sérielle, musique dodécaphonique, musique atonale... Le résultat est identique. On a aboli la résonance. Le reste, fonctions tonales ou forme sonate, disparaît sans que cela me préoccupe. Mais, sans résonance, seul demeure un sentiment de noirceur ". "Serial music, dodecaphonic music, atonal music ... The result is the same. The resonance (harmonic series) has been abolished. The rest, tonal functions or sonata form, disappear without worrying me. But, without resonance, only remains a feeling of darkness ".

When I say that classical music is searching for new ways or that the classical music is getting a new face, what would come to your mind?

Convincing new ways draw always their substance from harmonic series and/or modality, with a reference to melody and dance. „La mélodie, toujours la mélodie, voilà le seul et unique secret de notre art.“ (Melody, always melody, this is the sole and unique secret of our art.) Charles Gounod

Do you think that the classical musician today needs to be more creative? What is the role of creativity in the musical process for you?

As each of my works has a different genesis, the creativity remains a mystery. Once I have finished a work it is difficult to me to realize all the work I have done… There must be a spiritual presence pushing me ahead. Veni creator spiritus!

Do you think we musicians can do something to attract young generation into the classical music concerts? How will you proceed?

You remind me of a question I asked to my orchestration teacher, Serge Nigg, when I became analysis professor myself : „Maître, what advice would you give me for my teaching? “ He answered : „You know all the technical things you need for your class. I have only one advice : Love your students!“ To complete this testimony, I would quote Carl-Philipp Emmanuel Bach : „you have to be moved yourself, to be able to move others. " Practically, I would never program a work I don’t love from the bottom of my heart. Unfortunately I had to do it in the past and still regret it very deeply.

Tell us about your creative process. Do you have your favourite piece (written by you) How did you start working on it?

Would you ask me which one of my children I prefer? ... I smile. Honestly, the work I cherish most is the one I am working on. I am writing now a 5th organ concerto (organ, string orchestra and timpani). I write all the work prior to start orchestrating it. I have orchestrated two of the three movements and already forgot how I started the composition! (I would have to get to my sketches. That's why the study of sketches and drafts could help following the different steps of a composition.) But I can tell I have used free thematic material as well as an old moving byzantine melody for the last movement. I have a strong concern for harmony, melodic variation and getting distinct melodies above the vox prius facta (the part written first).

We, Moving Classics TV, love the combination of classical music with different disciplines: music and painting, music and cinematography, music and digital art, music and poetry. What do you think about these combinations?

Besides vocal music, I agree that instrumental music could be associated, conjugated with painting and poetry. Here are three examples : - In my Sinfonia in honore Sancti Ioannis Bautistae, there is an artwork for the cover based on a painting by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo representing The infant St John the Baptist, and each movement is preceeded by a biblical quotation. - In my recent Sonate pour harpe, each movement is preceded by poetical verses by my daughter Katia-Sofía Hakim (published in February 2018 by Schott Music)

- The manuscript of my Sakskøbing Præludier for chamber ensemble is in polychromic calligraphy, i.e. 12 different inks with different pens. This 12 movements work is based on Danish hymns and the colors follow the theological lines of the poetical texts.

Can you give some advice for young people who want to discover classical music for themselves?

It is a passion (patio, suffering). I really don’t know. It is as giving an advice for anyone to how to fall in love.

Now it is a common practice in the media to talk that the classical music is getting into the consumption business, do you agree? We are speaking about the supply and demand rules and how to sell your “product” in your case your compositions. How do you see it?

We are forced to live in a consumer „mammonic“ society. It is a form of „hell“. „You cannot serve God and Mammon“ Matt 6, 24 Only a spiritual life would help mankind to get out of this vicious circle. In the 1970, Robert Beauvais wrote a book entitled „L’hexagonal tel qu’on le parle“ in which he gives ironically a new definition for a masterpiece : „Le chef d’oeuvre est une oeuvre dont on parle“ (The masterpiece is a work of which we speak). Which means people are deprived of their own judgment. Parents and teachers have the responsibility to lead younger generations to develop their own judgment and... « Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. » Mat. 10, 16

Do you have expectations what regards your listeners, your audience?

My listeners and audience are the sheep on the right hand of the father. I hope they know that my music and I love them. I don’t want to disappoint them.

What projects are coming up? Do you experiment in your projects?

I look forward to conducting in January the Lebanese Philharmonic Orchestra in Beirut my homeland, with a program dedicated to my own compositions and accompany a wind quintet concert with three of my works.