A new series of international classical music presented by Dubai-based The Fridge promises to enliven the Gulf scene. The first event features the Seattle Baroque Orchestra.
Around the world: timeless scores at The Fridge
The Score, a selection of "world-class" concerts, is scheduled for the season and includes 12 educational and outreach programmes sponsored by Emirates Airline and Dubai Duty Free.
A new era
The first event in this new music series will be held on Thursday at the Amphitheatre, Souk Madinat Jumeirah, with special guests the Seattle Baroque Orchestra (SBO) from the US. Founded in 1994, the American ensemble includes six principal musicians specialising in 17th- and 18th-century works.
"Dubai very rarely experiences this type of playing - music heard as it would have been during the lives of Baroque composers such as JS Bach and Handel," says Shelley Frost, the artistic director and producer of The Fridge. "In selecting Seattle Baroque Orchestra, and [the soprano] Clara Rottsolk for our launch, we wanted to set out our intentions for the series. A world-class group, performing music that is timeless and extraordinary."
Next year's concerts will start on January 15 with the Rascher Saxophone Quartet from Frankfurt performing old and new works including Bach, Purcell, Glass and Barbara Thompson. A treat for the UAE audience will be the world premiere of a work by The Score's composer-in-residence, Joanna Marsh.
In February, The Swingle Singers from London will take the stage followed in March by the former harpist to the Prince of Wales, Catrin Finch, who has been described as "The Queen of Harps". Katya Apekisheva, a pianist from Moscow, will deliver romantic works from Chopin and Tchaikovsky during her concert in April. May will bring in Amjad Ali Khan, known as one of northern India's greatest classical musicians.
The main goal with The Score is to develop a regional classical music scene with depth and to raise awareness of its relevance and types of performers, according to Marsh, who is also the programme curator.
"As a result, we have created The Score, combining our skills in breaking new ground and reaching out dynamically to the community through a diverse range of concerts and educational and outreach projects," says Marsh.
A special programme
Audiences should expect a "beautiful" and "lively" evening on the first night, says Ingrid Matthews, the co-director of the SBO. The programme includes "tender melodies" from Bach: the A major harpsichord concerto, the famous Wedding Cantata and Air on the G-string. The SBO will also play Johann Heinrich Schmelzer's D major violin sonata. Matthews describes the repertoire as full of "hidden treasures".
"We're very excited and intrigued to come to Dubai. None of us have ever visited this part of the world before," she says. "Baroque composers cared a lot about clarity of expression and I think that makes the music really speak to people today."
Despite social and technological advances, the human response to music has not changed much in 300 years, she says, because composers at that time began with the idea of reaching out to audiences on an emotional level.
"The concerto, the instrumental sonata, the opera and even orchestral symphonies could all be said to have originated in the innovations of the baroque - it was such an important time in music history," she says.
Great baroque music has a wonderful way of being deep and yet immediately accessible, says Byron Schenkman, the co-director of the SBO.
"The composers we are performing on this programme are all captivating in different ways: Bach for his universality, Handel for his sense of drama, Schmelzer for his virtuosity," he says.
This period of music is "ubiquitous in modern popular culture", says Schenkman, pointing to its occurrence in movies, TV and commercials. And, he says, it has had an inescapable influence on the development of western classical music ever since.
Tickets cost Dh185 to Dh250 and are available from Madinat Theatre Box Office in Souk Madinat Jumeirah, www.madinattheatre.com or visit www.thescore.ae. Doors open at 7pm.The outreach projects start on Friday with a Baroque Schools Workshop at The Fridge from 10am.