Contemporary composer Alexey Shor was one of the composers who featured at the 2021 InClassica International Music Festival, with a series of his most beloved pieces performed by renowned soloists and orchestras.
The 10th-anniversary edition of InClassica brought the biggest classical music festival ever to the Middle East and boasted a programme full of diverse talent, featuring the works of composers from around the world.
Hosted in Dubai across two venues, the Dubai Opera and the Coca-Cola Arena, InClassica presented a month-long line-up of classical pieces spanning composers from past and present.
Originally founded in Malta, InClassica 2021 was brought to the Middle East for the first time. It provided Dubai residents with the opportunity to revel in grand classical performances for one of the first times since the global COVID pandemic caused over a year of cancellations and disruptions to live music.
At the creative helm of this year’s festival was Composer-in-Residence, Alexey Shor. The Ukrainian born composer began his career in mathematics. But after attaining a PhD, he opted to pursue his love for music instead.
Today, he is one of the most prolific contemporary composers and has had work performed in such storied venues as Vienna’s Wiener Musikverein, the Berlin Philharmonie, New York’s Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, the Great Hall of Moscow Conservatory and the Mariinsky Theatre.
Shor’s back catalogue was the focal point of much of InClassica with many of the festival’s soloists and conductors providing their interpretations of his works.
Most classical musicians are used to playing the works of long-dead composers such as Mozart or Chopin. With Shor in attendance, the festival offered a unique experience for classical musicians to interact directly with the composer of the pieces they were performing.
“It is actually quite an interesting experience,” said Belgium-based pianist Denis Kozhukhin, “because most of the time we’re dealing with composers who are already gone and we lack the chance to ask them things. In the case of Alexey, you can sit next to him and if you want to know something you can ask, which is great.”
Despite the approachability of the music’s creator, many of the soloists commented on their admiration for Shor and his approach to contemporary composition.
“He is a melodist, and being a melodist nowadays is the greatest courage,” pianist and conductor, Mikhail Pletnev, said. After performing a reworked version of Shor’s ‘From My Bookshelf’, which he edited himself. “I began to love them all. The more I got the hang of playing this music, the more sympathy I felt for all these images, and I started to like this music,” Pletnev added on Shor’s catalogue.
Compared to minimalist and post-minimalist trends in contemporary classical music, Shor is a unique composer, explained Daniel Lozakovich, a Swedish violinist who performed Shor’s ‘Concerto for Violin and Orchestra’. He noted the lyricality of Shor’s composition, “which is rare for modern music.”
“I am very glad that there are such people who can write such beautiful music and I am glad that I can play it, it inspires me,” Lozakovich said.
When asked about his tendency to harken back to earlier eras of musical language instead of embracing postmodern styles, Shor explained: “I am putting an emphasis on traditional melody and tonal harmony.”
“I look back at the classical music of the 18th and 19th centuries through the eyes of a modern person,” he said.
“The most important thing in music is the image and energy transfer and this is how it is with Alexey’s music,” Grammy-award-winning violinist Maxim Vengerov commented. “It’s very sunny, very bright, and then sometimes it’s sad so you have all these feelings and it’s all very warm.”
As the festival came to a close, Shor was full of praise for the artists performing his work. “It’s been an unbelievable experience in general. Absolutely nothing compares to the feeling that I get when I get to hear these incredible musicians, who I remember seeing on the stage of Carnegie Hall so many times as an audience member, play my music,” said Shor.
“It's just such an amazing rush every single time. It’s truly a pleasure like no other, and I would like to thank everyone for giving me this joy. It’s been amazing for me.”