Bach to get Eastern interpretation at Emirates Palace
The music of Johann Sebastian Bach is about to receive an innovative eastern spin at Emirates Palace.
The Bach Reloaded concert pairs acclaimed musicians Burhan Öcal, the Turkish percussionist, and Ukrainian pianist Alexey Botvinov, as they provide a unique interpretation of the work of the 18th-century composer.
Tomorrow night’s show revolves around their dizzying take on Bach’s seminal masterpiece the Goldberg Variations. Dating from 1741, the complex composition features an aria and up to 30 separate variations. Since debuting the work in 2010, Bach Reloaded has been performed across Europe including at the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival.
Öcal says the duo are relishing the prospect of their Middle East debut. “It is very exciting to come here for the first time,” he says. “I hope that all of us, the performers and the audience, will enjoy the show. We hope that we will be able to play more shows in the Middle East in the near future.”
How did you and Botvinov come up with the concept of Bach Reloaded?
I’ve been dreaming about this project for 15 to 20 years. However, as you know Bach is such a prominent composer in the western classical-music world that it was very risky to even play his non-religious compositions and not a lot of people were courageous enough to do this. So, it was not easy for us to revise his compositions with Turkish percussion and play it live.
We feel that we need to show the audience that these compositions are not for the sole purpose of being religious compositions, but are actually very [musically] successful in their nature. We’ve played these shows in Kiev, Zurich, Paris, Istanbul and at the Montreux Jazz Festival and the audience was mesmerised, so we hope that we can connect the same way with the audience in Abu Dhabi.
What is it about Bach’s compositions that lends them to a fusion of percussion and piano?
Bach’s music is so strictly mathematical that you cannot change the structure whatsoever. So this leads Bach’s compositions to be very rhythmic. Of course, these are very hard variations. I’ve maybe listened to the variations hundreds of times to be able to adapt to the piano and percussion. The 10- finger technique used both by the pianist and the percussionist also plays a big role in being able to create a fusion between these two instruments.
You and Botvinov focus on Bach’s Goldberg Variations. What is it about that piece that inspires you both to perform it?
The first reason in choosing the Goldberg Variations is that the composition itself was not written with religious purposes. The second reason is that the piece was composed beautifully with its mathematics and rhythmic structure.
How would you describe your musical chemistry with Botvinov?
First of all we both are very disciplined musicians. His is a 10-finger technique and mine also, because I do not use a stick which leads us to use our 20 fingers in perfect harmony.
What makes it so appealing to international audiences?
I think that the reason behind the performances being appreciated is that it is the first time a project that requires courage is actually being done and is being successful at it.
In Abu Dhabi, do you feel people will identify with your percussion, as this may feel familiar to Middle East audiences?
I think that they will feel the music is familiar and their reaction will definitely be positive. Because of these reasons I want to play some Middle Eastern Arabic rhythms and solos for the audience.
• Bach Reloaded, 8pm on Thursday, November 27. Tickets, from Dh270, are available at www.timeouttickets.com
Updated: November 25, 2014 04:00 AM