Review: Abu Dhabi Classics returns with an evocative performance by the Symphony Orchestra of India
A new season of Abu Dhabi Classics got off to a winning start on Wednesday (October 7), with a UAE premiere from the Symphony Orchestra of India.
It may be an ensemble which did not exist a decade ago, but this prestigious opening night performance at Emirates Palace is proof of how far and fast the institution has come – the musicians did not disappoint.
Symbolically, conductor Zane Dalal dedicated a piece to the UAE’s fallen martyrs, the Intermezzo from Elgar’s The Crown of India. Closing the first half of the programme, guest violist Marat Bisengaliev – who conducts the orchestra tonight (Thursday October 8) in Al Ain – offered a sombre interpretation, that rich vibrato cut to the short piece’s poignant core.
“When orchestras travel they bring with them an emotional machine,” Dalal told the audience during his dedication.
“It’s right and beautiful that they should be connected with the country that they are visiting.”
The 2015/16 programme features no less than four complete Beethoven symphonies, and fittingly things began tonight with the Fourth. Sandwiched between the might and drama of the progressive Third and the iconic Fifth – both incidentally to be performed by the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra in March – Symphony Number 4 offers an open door to fresh ears.
After the opening minutes of brooding, tentative footsteps, placed to wrong-foot the listener, the triumphant Allegro theme emerges. The mood of optimism doesn’t let up until the uncharacteristically subdued finale, a half-hour later. In the middle sits the beautiful waltz-time second movement, a shimmering passage of pastoral content. Leading the 70-piece orchestra, Dalal offered theatrical direction, mopping the sweat from his brow between movements.
Earlier in the evening the jovial tone was set with the countryside cantor of Glinka’s Mikhail and Ludmila Overture. The orchestra seemed most assured with their wistful reading of Karl Goldmark’s Sakuntala Overture, marked by sweeping big-hearted melodies and simple, uncluttered harmonies. Thematically cohesive, the Hungarian composer took his inspiration from the work of classical sanskrit Indian playwright Kālidāsa.
The performance marked the first of many coming nods to India’s vast cultural canon. On Monday and Wednesday, October 12 and 14, the Classics continue with a tribute to the work of Rabindranath Tagore, performed by poet Gulzar and musician Ajoy Chakrabarty. Meanwhile on Tuesday October 13, Aditi Mangaldas & Troupe present a programme of traditional khatak dance past and present.
• For more information see our full season opening preview, click here
Updated: October 8, 2015 04:00 AM