Classic makes a capital comeback


The stage is set for the return of Abu Dhabi’s classical music season. We take a look at what’s in store across the emirate during the next eight months

When the return of Abu Dhabi Classics was announced recently, it was music to our ears. The original series, last seen three years ago, was an imaginative way of asserting Abu Dhabi’s burgeoning position on the arts scene. Now it’s back, with an eight-month season from October to May that will bring some of the world’s top classical musicians, orchestras and conductors to Abu Dhabi.

The emirate-wide showcase, hosted by the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), keeps the tradition of Abu Dhabi Classics alive while continuing to establish Abu Dhabi as a centre for music.

Dr Ronald Perlwitz

Dr Ronald Perlwitz

“We’re not a simple festival, we are trying to create a true music season,” says Dr Ronald Perlwitz, Head of Music Program for TCA Abu Dhabi. “We want to educate people, we want to create an awareness and an appreciation of classical music.”

Abu Dhabi Classics will feature a mix of styles from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries along with a taste of contemporary music.

The season will also focus on the idea of ‘East meets West’, with artists like the Grammy award-winning Spanish musician Jordi Savall sharing a stage with oud masters from the Middle East.

“We really want to create world-class events. We believe that in Abu Dhabi we can have a musical life that is as good as anything in London, Paris and New York, and we are proving it by bringing concerts like Jordi Savall.”

The highly anticipated series has already garnered international interest with foreign media planning to cover the event. Some of the concerts will also be recorded for live albums.

CBSO, Photo: Matthias Creutziger

CBSO, Photo: Matthias Creutziger

Nostalgic notes

The overall theme of the season is ‘The Traveller’, taking audiences on a journey through musical performances.

“We’re looking at the theme through different eyes and it will be an interesting journey,” says Perlwitz. The spread of concerts and events will follow the theme from Jordi Savall’s exploration into famous traveller Ibn Battuta to film music evenings that take audiences into space.

“It’s not about the tourist or the guy that’s going to a place for two weeks,” says Perlwitz. “It’s about the traveller that leaves a place not knowing when he’s going back. And at the same time it’s nostalgia for homeland mixed with the excitement of not knowing what to expect.

“This will show people that Abu Dhabi Classics is not just a concert here and there, but an experience.”

Expressive ensembles

This year’s instalment hits all the right notes with an impressive line-up of international artists.

The journey begins on 14th October with a concert from star French pianist Lydie Solomon as she pays homage to Frédéric Chopin, exploring pieces that the composer and musician wrote while travelling through Europe.

Gidon Kremer Photo: Alberts Linarts

Gidon Kremer
Photo: Alberts Linarts

Later in the month, on 28th October, renowned violinist and composer Gidon Kremer from Latvia takes the stage with the award-winning ensemble he founded for young players from the Baltic, the Kremerata Baltica Chamber Orchestra.

Another highlight is a world premiere by Spanish conductor and Grammy-award winning musician Jordi Savall. On 20th November, the talented artist pays homage to the fabled Arabic traveller Ibn Battuta in ‘Ibn Battuta: A voyager of Islam’ with the help of Hesperion XXI, an ensemble of 16 musicians playing traditional Arabic instruments including the rebab, kanun and oud.

CBSO horns

CBSO horns

The impressive line-up continues into the season as the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) serenades listeners with a programme of classics by British composers centred on Elgar and Britten. CBSO then travels to Al Ain with an evening of music from films featuring John Williams scores including Star Wars and Harry Potter.

A night with the Orchestra from Milan’s Scala Academy, the Italian opera evening with conductor Giuseppe Finzi, and a performance from acclaimed Emirati oud player Faisal Al Saari offer plenty more to look forward to.

Khatia Buniatishvili

Khatia Buniatishvili

In 2015, the brilliant young Georgian pianist Khatia Buniatishvili enters the spotlight with her programme ‘Motherland’, exploring the idea of how music can be considered one’s homeland.

TCA Abu Dhabi presents the country’s first international oud festival courtesy of Abu Dhabi’s renowned oud music academy Bait Al Oud.

This will be swiftly followed by performances from Staatskapelle Dresden, one of the world’s oldest orchestras – and voted Orchestra of the Year in 2013.

Events will be taking place across the emirate including Saadiyat Island’s Manarat Al Saadiyat, Emirates Palace auditorium, Abu Dhabi Theater, and Al Jahili Fort and historical sites in Al Ain.

TCA Abu Dhabi is working closely with Abu Dhabi Education Council to give local students a behind-the-scenes look at the musicians in rehearsal, bringing artists to the school and training teachers in classical music.

Pre-concert talks will give music fans the chance to learn more about the subject of classical music and composition.

As part of its focus on education, Abu Dhabi Classics has allocated ten per cent of its tickets for students available for only AED 30.

“That’s something very special, having student tickets from the most prestigious gala evening to the Italian opera evening for less than the price of a movie ticket,” says Perlwitz.

Check out our exclusive interview with piano prodigy, Lydie Solomon here.

To stay up to date with Abu Dhabi Classics visit:

Tickets are available from AED 30 for students and AED 100 for adults at

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