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Janczukowicz says that the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra will perform Beethoven in Abu Dhabi.
Janczukowicz says that the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra will perform Beethoven in Abu Dhabi.

Hitting high notes: Till Janczukowicz

Till Jancukowicz, the globe-trotting artistic director of the Abu Dhabi Classics series is a man on a mission to bring a truly worldwide vision of orchestral music to the Emirates.

Till Janczukowicz is a tricky man to pin down at the moment. The artistic director of the Abu Dhabi Classics concert series has spent the past few days criss-crossing mainland Europe to take in the highlights of the musical summer - one moment he is at the Salzburg Festival, the next a piano festival in the south of France. "Many of the artists that are coming next season are performing in summer," he explains, "so it's a good time to see them, to catch up and to prepare various things." It all sounds very glamorous, but in fact Janczukowicz says he spent the whole of the previous day sitting in traffic jams. And in fairness, there must be a lot of preparation to do if the second Abu Dhabi Classics season is to live up to its first iteration.

Still, earlier this week the first hints were dropped about what the new season will contain. The big news was that the New York Philharmonic will be making its UAE debut. We will have to wait until later this month to learn the full bill, but Janczukowicz was able to expand on this season's general drift. The first big change: "We are presenting more Beethoven and more Mozart," he says, "because we almost did not have any Beethoven last year. In the last season we didn't have much time."

More Beethoven would certainly help make good on the festival's original mission. As Janczukowicz puts it: "The main purpose of the Abu Dhabi Classics is to present in, let's say, the first five or six years - and I think this is what you need - the core repertoire of classical music. The main classical and Romantic repertoire in the best possible performances in Abu Dhabi." That last proviso is the crucial one. "If you hear a bad performance you may not be that interested," Janczukowicz insists. "It is important before anything you do, that everybody has a chance to hear what all this is about. And in order to appreciate it and fall in love with this, you have to hear it in the best possible performance."

With that in mind, Janczukowicz has enlisted some world-beating players to help sell the great Romantic composer to Abu Dhabians. "For the Beethoven symphonies we will have the Philharmonia Orchestra from London again; the Vienna Philharmonic will be doing a Beethoven symphony, and we will have the New York Philharmonic doing another Beethoven symphony... I think it's not a bad make-up," he says. Indeed, with the addition of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Janczukowicz is justified in boasting: "We have orchestras from all the musical capitals - from Paris, from New York, from Vienna, from London."

Among the most exciting pieces of programming, however, will be the appearance of Austria's Mahler Chamber Orchestra, to be conducted by the legendary Japanese interpreter of the high-Romantic canon, Seiji Ozawa. The orchestra is a young one with an engaging origin story. The group was established 12 years ago when members of the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra were nearing graduation age. As Janczukowicz tells it: "Those musicians had so much fun playing together they said, 'We don't want to disappear. Let's found our own orchestra and continue,' and that's how the Mahler was founded." That buccaneering spirit continues; the orchestra roams the world without fixed abode, dazzling festival audiences and producing a steady stream of award-winning recordings which span the gulf between Joseph Haydn and Alban Berg. "They're a very young, very motivated orchestra," says Janczukowicz with enthusiasm. "They're fantastic."

The individual names booked to perform in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain over the coming months are no less impressive. Along with Ozawa, expect appearances from Myung-Whun Chung, who will be directing the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, and the great Lorin Maazel. Maazel was, until last year, the creative director of the New York Philharmonic, but Abu Dhabi will not be staging a reunion; he is to conduct the Vienna Phil.

Then there are the soloists. "Frank Peter Zimmerman, together with Anne Sophie Mutter, is one of the most important violinists of our time," says Janczukowicz. As it happens, Abu Dhabi will get both: an evening of chamber music from Mutter, and Brahms's violin concerto from Zimmerman, backed by the New York Philharmonic. The same orchestra will be helping Janczukowicz's Beethoven theme along by accompanying the great American pianist Emanuel Ax through one of the composers piano concerti.

A couple of other motifs will be continued from last season. There's to be more Wagner. Last year, it was the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra; this time, the Bavarian State Opera will present a gala performance of highlights from the composer's oeuvre. There's more Mahler on the menu, too: the First Symphony, following last season's spectacular performance of the Second at the Al Jahili fort, when Zubin Mehta conducted the Orchestra del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. That, it turns out, was just the beginning: "We have started a cycle of all the symphonies of Mahler," Janczukowicz explains. "You cannot do the cycle in a year. It would be too much. So this is a cycle which will run over three or four years."

Also set to continue is Al Ain's tradition of performances of Mozart in Arabic, established with a production of Don Giovanni in 2008 and extended when The Marriage of Figaro was mounted under the joint auspices of the Al Ain and Abu Dhabi Classics festivals the following year. "We have entered into a partnership with the Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg," Janczukowicz says, "which is also participating every year with the Salzburg Festival and which is one of the leading orchestras for Mozart opera and Mozart interpretation. And so we're happy to present them in Al Ain during the Al Ain Classics in March 2010."

Abu Dhabi is to get some opera, too. In May the orchestra of La Fenice opera house in Venice closed the Abu Dhabi season with a well-received gala of opera highlights. It returns with two full acts excerpted from Verdi's operas Rigoletto and La Traviata. "Then in the third season," Janczukowicz pledges, "we'll have a full opera." Watch this space. There should also be a slight return following January's celebratory children's concert featuring music from the Disney films. According to Janczukowicz: "We had a lot of letters and many demands after the Disney concert last season, so we will have something else with Disney, children and film music." There will be two further concerts for children, including, rather intriguingly: "a symphony by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's father... It's called Kids' Symphony, where kids can participate." Presumably that kind of musical encouragement never did Mozart himself any harm.

In fact, the educational scope of this year's Abu Dhabi Classics is one of the most expanded aspects of the new season. Nearly all the performers on the bill will be providing some sort of pedagogical service. The New York, Vienna and London Philharmonics are all designing educational programmes for Abu Dhabi and, says Janczukowicz: "We want the musicians to go to schools, to participate in workshops and so on."

By the sound of it, they might come out dragging the students with them. "We will go to the universities," Janczukowicz says. "We will bring the students actively to the concerts, speak with the deans, arrange this." He has, he says, started trying to make arrangements with every university in the Emirates. Such interventions are important for the creation and maintenance of a vital musical culture. "We work for what have now, but we also work for the public of tomorrow."

It's a public that the present season's stars may yet get the chance to visit. "We don't want artists just once to come to the Emirates and then disappear," says Janczukowicz. "We want relationships. So that's why certain artists, you will see them again and again. Not every season but maybe every second or third seasons." He pauses. "There are other institutions, like the Vienna Philharmonic, which is one of the best in the world and you are lucky if you can present them every season. And that's what is going to happen." The future, both near and far, sounds bright for Abu Dhabi.

elake@thenational.ae

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