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Influences from around the world converge in ‘Concert for Humanity’, designed to promote cultural dialogue

5th Apr 2010

Oud Horizons concert excites Abu Dhabi with Caprice world premiere

Abu Dhabi was treated to a world first last night, as the world's leading oud master Naseer Shamma, accompanied by the Egyptian Philharmonic Society Orchestra and renowned composer and conductor Ahmed El Saedi, performed a unique interpretation of one of the most challenging pieces of music of all time – Paganini’s Caprice No.24. The piece was part of Oud Horizons: Concert for Humanity, which also incorporated pieces by Joaquin Rodrigo and Antonio Vivaldi – as well as Naseer Shamma himself – presented as part of the Abu Dhabi Festival 2010, organised by the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation.

An international audience gave Shamma a standing ovation after he flew through a virtuoso performance of the legendarily challenging piece, which was originally written for violin and here, adapted for the first time for the oud by Akil Abdel Salam.  This was just one triumph of a concert which had taken the audience through a journey of musical styles. Starting with a technically astounding solo piece from the oud master himself, alone on the stage of the Emirates Palace Auditorium, the Egyptian Philharmonic Society Orchestra then made their entrance with the operatic Light Cavalry Overture by Franz von Suppé. 

The first half of the concert came to an end with a superb rendition of Samaii Ajam by Rouhy El-Khammash, followed by Naseer’s On Butterfly Wings.  Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 in C major welcomed an excited audience back to the auditorium for the second half, followed by one of Naseer Shamma’s own oud compositions To Jawad. The master then prefaced the virtuosic Caprice No. 24 with a show-stopping, scintillating oud intro which precipitated yet another round of spontaneous applause. Naseer flowed smoothly through an exquisite oud piece of his own composition before building up to the orchestral climax of the concert, the overture from Il Barbiere di Seviglia, arranged for oud and orchestra by Akil Abdel Salam.  Naseer returned to the stage for a triumphant encore – playing his own Lillrouh Hadith.

Naseer Shamma returned to Abu Dhabi with this brand new concert following the success of his performance at last year’s festival.  One of the most respected classical musicians in the Middle East, Shamma is well-known both as a consummate musician and internationally-renowned expert on the oud.  As director of the House of Oud in Cairo, he has not only taught a generation of musicians to play the oud, but has furthered the academic study of this deeply historic and culturally-significant instrument.  His innovations include a new way to play the instrument with only one hand, as well as the creation of an eight-stringed variant of the oud, based on the ninth century manuscript of musician Al Farabi.  He is a regular performer and composer of works for film as well as for live performance.

Last night, Naseer played with one of the region’s most exciting new orchestral groups, the Egyptian Philharmonic Society Orchestra.  Celebrating their fifth anniversary this season, the orchestra features some of Egypt’s finest musicians and has already established itself as a major force on the Egyptian music scene – playing no fewer than thirty concerts across Egypt during its 2008/9 season. 

The orchestra was conducted by its founder, Ahmed El Saedi, an expert composer and conductor who formerly led the Cairo Symphony Orchestra and whose honours include the Brazilian Medalha Século Villa-Lobos (1988), and the Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art (2004).  A highly-regarded composer in his own right, El Saedi has collaborated with more than fifty orchestras and opera houses and has performed across the world.  A prominent member of the Egyptian classical music scene, he is artistic director of the Cairo Music Competition as well as chairman of the Egyptian Philharmonic Society.

Mrs Hoda Al Khamis Kanoo, Founder and Artistic Director of the Abu Dhabi Festival said:

“Naseer Shamma was one of the most popular and admired performers at last year’s festival, and we were delighted to welcome him back to Abu Dhabi to delight audiences again this year.  The oud is an important and defining part of the Arab world’s heritage, and Naseer Shamma is its finest living master.  The pieces he played for us were exciting, moving and thrilling to hear and to watch; the performance of Caprice No.24 an awe-inspiring display of his art and the enduring power of this masterpiece of composition.  We are also extremely pleased to welcome some of Egypt’s finest musicians – including composer and conductor Ahmed El Saedi and the Egyptian Philharmonic Society Orchestra - to the festival.”

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 until 7 April. This year’s Festival is a feast of arts and culture with more than 90 events over three weeks, fusing world-class performances in traditional, classical and jazz music, drama, fine arts, and ballet and rich community and education programs.