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Belgian violinist headlines at historical concert in Dubai

Belgian violinist Leonard Schreiber together with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra on Friday 10 September in Dubai. Credit: Evgeny Evtyukhov

The InClassica International Music Festival 2021 is currently taking place in Dubai with concerts, soloist performances, masterclasses and talks by prominent musicians and instructors from the Malta Classical Music Academy.

The 10th edition of the festival, considered to be one of the world’s leading classical festivals, was originally planned to take place in Valetta, Malta, but was relocated to Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, because of COVID-19 restrictions. There it took place at two of the most important venues, the Dubai Opera and the Coca-Cola Arena.

The festival was arranged by The European Foundation for Support of Culture (EUFSC) and Dubai-based SAMIT, a Show, Production & Management group which creates and brings international projects to the Middle-East.

EUFSC is a non- profit organization founded in Malta by cultural entrepreneur and philanthropist Konstantin Ishkhanov to initiate and promote cultural and educational projects in Europe. The Foundation aims to introduce a broad public to the world musical heritage and to support young talented musicians. This venture in Dubai signifies the latest in a growing list of events organised and promoted by the two organisations.

The event this year features some of the greatest soloists of the classical music world and seven major symphonic orchestras, led by some of the most outstanding conductors, all of whom are considered contemporary luminaries of the classical genre.

The festival illustrated more than ever the universal character of music as an art form which unites people from all around the world and serves as a bridge between nations.

Among the soloists performing at the festival were Belgian violinist Leonard Schreiber and Korean pianist Yeol Eum Son, a distinguished Mozart interpreter. They played with Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra conducted by Marius Stravinsky from the United Kingdom, in Alexey Shor’s cycle The Well Tempered Chanson.

The Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra was established in 1936 as a small studio ensemble. With the foundation of Israel in 1948, the orchestra became the national radio orchestra, known as the Kol Israel Orchestra. In the 1970s, the orchestra was expanded and became the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra.

This is the first time in history that an Israeli orchestra plays in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Tomorrow (15 September) is the first anniversary of the Abraham Accords, when Israel signed a peace agreement with the UAE and a declaration on establishing diplomatic relations with Bahrain.

Composer Alexey Shor together with Belgian violinist Leonard Schreiber and conductor Marius Stravinsky in front of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra on Friday 10 September in Dubai.

Alexey Shor was born in Kiev in 1970, immigrated to Israel in 1991, and now lives primarily in the US. His compositions have been performed at some of the most prestigious concert halls in the world. His cycle The Well Tempered Chanson was inspired by the creativity of the folklore of the Soviet era. Confronting urban chansons with unexpected styles, he transforms the songs to such an extent that the original music becomes something completely new.

Alexey Shor told The Brussels Times that, “It’s an amazing opportunity to have the best musicians and orchestras of the world playing my creations. It is a dream come true.” He also believes that the festival is historical because it was the first big event for classical music after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He holds a Ph.D. in mathematics and believes that his knowledge in math helped him in the beginning to learn how to compose music, due to easier processing of the information, systematizing it and paying attention to details. Now he is using more intuition than mathematical skills and composes directly on the computer.

The conductor Marius Stravinsky was born to a musical family in Kazakstan and began playing the violin when he was four-years old. Educated at the Moscow Central Music School and the Yehudi Menuhin school, he went on to become the first former Soviet student to secure a scholarship to Eton College and graduated from the Royal Academy of Music in London,

He enjoys a particularly strong profile in Russia, working with top orchestras and institutions including the Russian National Orchestra, Russian Philharmonic, and the St. Petersburg Symphony Orchestra.

Leonard Schreiber, the Belgian violist, played the solo part along the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra on Friday 10 September. The second half of the concert was dedicated to Sergei Prokofiev’s Concerto for piano and orchestra No. 3, the composer’s most popular piano concerto, played by Yeol Eum Son.

Leonard is known as a versatile and passionate musician and started to play the violin at the age of five. At six he gave his first concert appearance with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of Flanders. At fourteen he moved to London to the specialised ‘Purcell School of Music’ and at sixteen entered the Royal College of Music.

He believes that his parents played an important role in his development as a musician since they were passionate about music and hosted several candidate musicians for the Queen Elizabeth competitions. It is a Belgian institution since 1937 which has established itself as a springboard for young violinists, pianists, singers, and cellists on the threshold of an international career.

One of the musicians hosted by his parents was a Vietnamese violinist, who made Leonard completely fall in love with violin. The piece he likes the most is Beethoven’s famous violin concerto. This was the first time he played music composed by Alexey Shor. He felt honored, excited and apprehensive because of the responsibility and after only one rehearsal before the concert.

“I feel also very much privileged on a personal level because I’m from a Jewish family,” he said. “It means a lot to me to play in the UAE with an Israeli orchestra and a Jewish composer.”

The Brussels Times

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