Just imagine, 37 renowned soloists, 11 esteemed conductors and seven leading international orchestras in one place. That's exactly what the acclaimed InClassica International Music Festival in Dubai offered audiences from August 28 to September 26, 2021.
Despite the setbacks and disruptions the arts and culture sector has faced over the past year and a half, many artists and events organisers have continued working hard to ensure that the industry can thrive nonetheless.
The Malta-based European Foundation for Support of Culture (EUFSC) – an international body responsible for dozens of cultural events around the world every year – is one stand-out organisation that has done just that. The NGO shrugged off the many obstacles presented by the COVID-19 pandemic to march ahead with the highly anticipated 10th anniversary edition of the InClassica International Music Festival.
Hosted in Dubai after a last-minute relocation from Malta due to COVID-19 restrictions, the event proved to be a star-studded feast of classical music, welcoming award-winning artists and ensembles from around the world to the UAE’s most populous city. Throughout the festival’s thirty days of concerts, a staggering 37 famous soloists performed to audiences at the Dubai Opera and Coca-Cola Arena, amongst them pianists Rudolf Buchbinder and Marc André Hamelin, violinists Gil Shaham and Maxim Vengerov, cellists Mischa Maisky and Steven Isserlis and tenor Joseph Calleja.
The roster of talent also included the renowned Russian pianist Denis Matsuev, who performed at InClassica’s closing concert. Matsuev was impressed both by the festival itself and the organiser’s ability to rise to the challenge of holding it in the new location of Dubai. “I am very glad that such a festival was held here,” he said. “I congratulate you all. It's wonderful to start something new in a new place, and all of us could feel the energy charge coming from the hall. I wish you good health and good music. Because music is good — the best vaccine in the world.”
The festival also welcomed seven internationally recognised orchestras, including the Russian National Orchestra, Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz, Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, Kaliningrad Symphony Orchestra, Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra and Armenian State Symphony Orchestra. These ensembles performed under the batons of such luminaries as Michael Francis, Daniel Raiskin, Alexander Sladkovsky, Dmitry Yablonsky and others.
Speaking of his pride at InClassica’s remarkable success, the European Foundation for Support of Culture’s president, Konstantin Ishkhanov, said: “To present events that further engage people with classical music is something we consider a pleasure and a privilege, and, especially now, at a such a difficult time for the holding of cultural events around the world, even more so.”
He continued: “This festival represents not just a huge success for us as an organisation, but, crucially, a vital beacon of light for all those who appreciate and value classical music. We are thrilled and proud to have been able to bring this special edition of InClassica to Dubai, and to welcome some of the most esteemed names in our industry to this city.”
In addition to InClassica, the EUFSC presented two further initiatives; the Classic Piano International Competition, and the inaugural edition of Middle East Classical Music Academy (MECMA).
The Classic Piano International Competition, a thrilling event held over four rounds, featured concerto performances with the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra. Following a series of fourteen competitive piano events which took place around the world over the last two years, the five top-ranked participants of each were invited to compete at the event. The competition welcomed virtuosic participants from between the ages of 13 and 35, and featured a distinguished jury composed of some of the most respected pianists, professors, composers and musicologists in the world today.
InClassica also featured MECMA, which was the largest educational classical music event of its kind to have ever taken place in the Middle East. It welcomed professors from the world’s leading conservatoires to hold masterclasses throughout its twenty-day run, in an intensive programme of lessons. The MECMA also featured a series of daytime concerts, presenting performances by leading soloists alongside the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra and Kaliningrad Symphony Orchestra, with the participation of academy students.
In spite of the difficulties of holding live events in the current climate, the EUFSC has risen to the challenge, bringing phenomenal classical music performances to the Middle East and working to help develop the opportunities for this cherished art form throughout the region.
By James Cummings