ABU DHABI // Six-year-old Rio Ishi has been playing the piano for only three months, but the budding virtuoso has already been bitten by the classical music bug.
"He can only play a few songs, but he very much likes music, especially classical," said his mother Yuka Ishi, 45. The little boy practically dragged her to see the renowned conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim last night as part of the Abu Dhabi Classics Festival.
"I couldn't say no," said Mrs Ishi, who moved to Abu Dhabi from Japan four years ago.
Ms Ishi and her son were among hundreds who filled the Emirates Palace Auditorium last night for the mid-winter concert.
Now in its third season, the Abu Dhabi Classics Festival draws hundreds of classical music lovers to its year-long catalogue of concerts, performances and presentations.
The Barenboim concert, in which he conducted Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony and played Mozart's 26th Piano Concerto, drew fans from all over the world, from the connoisseur to the casual listener.
Renate Pfeiffer said she never misses an Abu Dhabi Classics concert. "When I lived in Berlin, I heard this orchestra quite often, and I'm very happy to have the chance to hear them here," said Mrs Pfeiffer, 60, who now lives in Abu Dhabi. "I just love classical music. I go to every concert."
Barenboim, an Argentine-born Israeli musician who made his concert debut in 1950 at the age of seven, is known for his work with the West-Eastern Divan orchestra, an ensemble composed of musicians from across the Middle East. But Friday night was the first trip to the Gulf for the Staatskapelle Berlin orchestra, which he has conducted for the past 20 seasons.
Today Barenboim will conduct Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony in a special Young People's concert at the Emirates Palace hotel.