x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

New York’s The Aeolus Quartet in Abu Dhabi for one-week residency

Chamber Music Abu Dhabi is bringing together Emirati student poets from Khalifa University and the American Aeolus String Quartet for a special concert during the musical group's week-long residency in the capital.

The members of the award-winning Aeolus Quartet from The Juilliard School in New York. Courtesy The Aeolus Quartet
The members of the award-winning Aeolus Quartet from The Juilliard School in New York. Courtesy The Aeolus Quartet

The worlds of western classical music and Emirati traditional arts will merge again: distinguished young string quartets from the United States are heading to Abu Dhabi for a week-long residency that includes a performance alongside Emirati poets.

From tomorrow until May 14, the award-winning Aeolus Quartet from The Juilliard School in New York will participate in concerts and masterclasses in the capital.

A concert to look forward to in the line-up is the one where two Khalifa University students, Abdulrahman Glaladdin Mohammed Jadrani and Aadel Alabdouli, will recite poetry to classical music performed by the quartet. Both Jadrani and Alabdouli are studying mechanical engineering.

The concept was dreamt up by Jennifer Laursen, the wife of the Khalifa University president Tod Laursen (their two sons are professional violinists in the US), and the university’s head librarian Dorothy Byers, also a violinist.

In Christmas 2010, Laursen’s sons and Byers performed a concert for the university’s students.

“It was amazing how many students came up to us afterwards and said: ‘I want to play the violin,’” says Byers. “So we discussed bringing accomplished musicians over to the UAE. We wanted it to be intimate and modest, to introduce young people here to classical ­music.”

Two years later, the ladies formed Chamber Music Abu Dhabi and invited the Bryant Park Quartet over for their first initiative, after Laursen saw them perform in the US.

The resulting visit last May (funded by the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation and Emirates Advanced Investments) also included masterclasses and concerts at The British School Al Khubairat and Brighton College.

“The collaboration with Emirati poets was a great way to enhance cultural understanding on both sides,” says Laursen, adding that the project was so successful that Laursen and Byers decided to repeat the formula this year. “Poets are really popular here on campus – like a stand-up comedian would be in the US. It’s something that has esteem,” says Laursen. “We provide the poets with four musical movements ahead of time, each encompassing a variety of different emotions. They compose poetry based on these. They’ll have one rehearsal with the quartet, where they discuss where the poets’ voices might fit in – so the spoken Arabic words weave in and out of the music.

“Last year, it was fascinating how much the poets understood the music without knowing anything about the composers, responding to just the sound. One musical piece was about a guy going crazy on a train because he thinks his wife is having an affair with a violinist. And the student’s poem had to do with jealousy and why people are so hard on each other. The poets really seemed to understand the emotional content of the music.”

“To write my poetry for last year’s event, I would listen to classical music on my drive back from the university to my home in Mohammed bin Zayed City,” says Jadrani. “All these thoughts just came to my head, because the music really inspired me. Now I listen to Classic FM all the time in my car. When you talk, normally people don’t always understand your feelings but when you write it down in a poem, it somehow fits how you are feeling. I didn’t choose engineering because I love it, but because I know it’s best for my future. But I always consider poetry as my secret love. I’m really excited about working with musicians again.”

Aeolus’s first violinist Nicholas Tavani says none of the team has ever been to the Arabian Peninsula before.

“One of my favourite things about music is its power to reach people, regardless of cultural background,” says Tavani. “The collaboration with Emirati poets is a fantastic opportunity to hear how great musical artists of past generations inspire and are understood by the poets of today.”

In September, Chamber Music Abu Dhabi is bringing the Grammy-nominated Calder Quartet over from Los Angeles to perform a new composition inspired by an Emirati folk tale.

The schedule

Open Rehearsal

Watch The Aeolus Quartet work with two Emirati poets in a concert involving classical works and the spoken word

May 7, noon, Khalifa University

Classical Traditions: Arabic Poetry and the String Quartet

Bartok, Ravel and Haydn

May 8, noon, Khalifa University, followed by a meet-the-artists reception. The programme will contain the English translation of the poems

Haydn and Beyond

Haydn – Op 76 No 5, Beethoven – Op 18 No 1, Ravel – Quartet in F Major

May 9, 7pm, British School Al Khubairat

An Evening with The Aeolus Quartet

Purcell – Fantasias for Four Voices, Haydn Op 33 No 6, Beethoven – Op 59 No 1,

May 12, 7.30pm, Paris Sorbonne University, Abu Dhabi auditorium

Admission to all events is free. Violin, viola and cello students are invited to participate in free masterclasses tomorrow and May 14. Contact jennifer@chambermusicad.org or visit www.chambermusicad.org for more details

artslife@thenational.ae