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World-famous 20th century composer Penderecki directs National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra and piano virtuoso Jablonski. The Middle East Modern Masters exhibition opens with joint collection by masters of contemporary Middle Eastern art - Parviz Tanavoli and Adam Henein. Abu Dhabi Festival ...

21st Mar 2010

Abu Dhabi Festival 2010 opens with stunning Chopin Bicentennial Celebration Gala

Last night saw the start of the Abu Dhabi Festival 2010, the Emirate’s premier celebration of culture, at the Emirates Palace. A packed house enjoyed an Opening Gala celebrating the Bicentennial of Chopin’s birth, a key theme of this year’s festival.  The National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra was directed by Grammy Award winning and renowned 20th century composer, Krzysztof Penderecki himself, making his Middle East debut.  The orchestra was joined on stage by Chopin International Piano Competition winner and piano virtuoso, Krzysztof Jablonski.

The Abu Dhabi Festival 2010 is held under the patronage of His Highness General Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and runs from 20 March until 7 April. Attending last night’s performance were His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al-Nahyan, the UAE Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Her Excellency Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, the UAE Minister for Foreign Trade, His Excellency Bogdan Zdrojewski, Polish Minister of Culture, His Excellency Roman Chalaczkiewicz, Polish Ambassador to the UAE and Waldemar Dabrowski, Chair of Chopin 2010. 

HE Hoda I. Al Khamis-Kanoo, Founder of the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation, comments:

“It was truly an honor to witness the illustrious composer Krzysztof Penderecki’s Middle East debut as he expertly led the National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra and piano virtuoso Krzysztof Jablonski in works of Chopin and Shubert as well as his own.  The concert was both moving and spectacular and provided a fitting opening to the Abu Dhabi Festival 2010.

”One of the themes of this year’s Festival is the Bicentennial of Chopin’s birth. To be able to welcome such distinguished guests from the country of his birth, Poland, is very special for me. We will continue to celebrate the Bicentennial with stunning recitals on the piano, the instrument Chopin loved so much, by young virtuosos Nobuyuki Tsujii and Yundi Li over the coming days.”

Yesterday also saw the opening of The Middle East Modern Masters exhibition in the auditorium foyer of the Emirates Palace with a joint collection of works by two of the greatest masters of contemporary Middle Eastern art - sculptors Parviz Tanavoli and Adam Henein.  

Before the start of the concert, His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al-Nahyan, Her Excellency Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi and Mrs Hoda I. Al Khamis-Kanoo presented the 2010 Abu Dhabi Festival Award to a group of 15 Zayed University female students who as the ‘Young Media Leaders’, an educational initiative conceived by ADMAF, were involved in reporting the 2009 Festival.  The Abu Dhabi Festival Award, in association with Chopard, is presented each year to participating national university students who have excelled in the fields of the performing and visual arts, music, film, literature and communication.


The Chopin Bicentennial Celebration Opening Gala

The Opening Gala began with two of Krzysztof Penderecki’s own compositions - Ciaccona for String Orchestra and Serenade for String Orchestra.  Penderecki, born in Poland in 1933, is one of the leading figures in contemporary Polish music. His output has included numerous choral and experimental works as well as concertos for piano, clarinet, flute, violin, viola and cello as well as five symphonies.  Much of his work honours those who have died in Poland's long and often bloody path to democratization and self-determination and this was evident in parts of last night’s moving performance.

Next came Schubert’s Symphony No.5 in B flat Major, D 485 in four movements – Allegro, Andante con moto, Menuetto (Allegro molto) – Trio and Allegro vivace.  Schubert, who was born in 1797, never lived to enjoy the wide recognition of his genius but he did enjoy the company of some good friends and some highly skilled musicians, and it was for them that he wrote his Fifth Symphony.  The work, which owes much to the works of Haydn and Mozart, brimmed with energy, humour and song-like themes.

The evening closed with Chopin’s Piano Concerto in E minor Op.11 No. 1 in three movements - Allegro maestoso, Romanze (Larghetto) and Rondo (Vivace).  Chopin’s importance in musical history lies in his single-minded concentration on the piano and all 168 of his works involve the piano.  Based on a traditional Polish dance, a krakowiak, Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1. provided Krzysztof Jablonski the opportunity to give a dazzling display of pianistic virtuosity at the Emirates Palace.


Abu Dhabi Festival 2010

This year’s Festival will be a feast of arts and culture with more than 40 events over three weeks, fusing world-class performances in traditional, classical and jazz music, drama, fine arts, and ballet.   The visual art exhibition and rich community and education programs will assert the position of the festival as the emirate’s premier celebration of culture. The Festival has ambitious aims, not only to provide entertainment, but to be a platform where commissioning works, partnerships, world premieres and cross-cultural debates take place.

Continuing the Chopin Bicentennial theme, the Abu Dhabi Festival 2010 will also present two piano recitals featuring Chopin masterpieces with Nobuyuki Tsujii, the acclaimed 22-year-old pianist from Japan giving a breathtaking concert and China-born Yundi Li, the youngest musician to win the International Frederick Chopin Piano Competition, making his Middle Eastern debut.

Tickets for the Festival are on sale from, Virgin Megastores and Emirates Palace (12pm -6pm).  Parts of the proceeds will go to the Ewaa Shelter for Women and Children. More information can be found at