A guide to Abu Dhabi Classics 2020: from Majida El Roumi to Beethoven at du Arena

Taking place from Tuesday, January 28 to Friday, February 7, there will be a plethora of international and regional talent on show

Lebanese singer Majida El Roumi is the headline act for the 2020 Abu Dhabi Classics. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Classics. 
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Lebanese singer Majida El Roumi and her 70-member orchestra are heading to the UAE to headline Abu Dhabi Classics 2020.

Abu Dhabi Classics is a highlight of the capital's musical calendar each year, hosting a bevy of performances that showcase the next generation of classical musical talent.

The full line-up of the event has been announced for 2020, which includes a performance of Ludwig van Beethoven's masterpieces to celebrate the 250th anniversary of his birth, as well as a performance by the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra, and French pianist Lise de la Salle.

Taking place from Tuesday, January 28 to Friday, February 7, there will be a plethora of international and regional talent on show. The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi has described it as their "strongest and most diverse line-up to date".

Here's what not to miss at next year's event:

Tuesday, January 28: Bach's 'Concertos for 2, 3 and 4 Pianos'

Hamburg Symphony Orchestra are known for their renditions of classical Beethoven. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Classics
Hamburg Symphony Orchestra are known for their renditions of classical Beethoven. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Classics

Abu Dhabi Classics 2020 kicks off with French classical pianist David Fray performing Bach's Concertos for 2, 3, and 4 Pianos with the Geneva Chamber Orchestra. This performance will involve up to four pianos being played at the same time, with four leading pianists, David Fray, Emmanuel Christien, Audrey Vigoureux and Jacques Rouvier, taking to the stage. Their Bach interpretation is internationally renowned at venues around the world.

Saturday, February 1: Lise de la Salle  

The French pianist has established herself as one of today's most exciting young artists, known for the "uncommon sensibility and maturity" of her music. De la Salle will be performing the musical programme Dances, which reflects a new approach to classical music by exploring dance rhythms from various times and places.

The programme will include Ravel's Valses nobles et sentimentales, combining this with Stravinsky's Tango, Bartok's Romanian Folk Dances and Debussy's Mazurka.

Latin influences will also be seen in pieces from Ginastera and Piazzolla, as well as in works inspired by American dance culture.

Tuesday, February 4: Hamburg Symphony Orchestra – Tchaikovsky and Brahms

The celebrated Hamburg Symphony Orchestra joins Abu Dhabi Classics for a Chamber Music Programme at the Cultural Foundation on February 4.

The orchestra is well-known for its renditions of Beethoven and Hamburg-born composer Johannes Brahms, who was himself inspired by Beethoven.

Expect melodic performances of Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme and, as a tribute to Beethoven, his Variations on La Ci Darem la Mano, derived from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Don Giovanni, and written for flute, clarinet and bassoon.

Wednesday, February 5: Hamburg Symphony Orchestra – Beethoven’s '9th Symphony'

To mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of Beethoven, one of the most famous classical pieces ever written will be performed by the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra.

This concert will double as a "unique cultural statement for the region", DCT says. More than 100 musicians and a chorus of 70 singers will premiere the 9th Symphony in the Middle East, performing at du Arena.

First performed in 1824 and composed over the three years prior, the 9th Symphony was Beethoven's last symphony and marked a turning point in musical history, as the culmination of the Vienna Classical Period and the beginning of the 19th century's Romantic period.

The words for the composition were taken from Ode to Joy, a poem by Friedrich Schiller, and today, the 9th Symphony still represents the values of humanity, tolerance and camaraderie.

Thursday, February 6 – Saltana with Sanaa Nabil

Young Egyptian singer Sanaa Nabil, who rose to fame through Arabs Got Talent, grew up in a family where traditional music was of huge importance. As the great-granddaughter of the sister of famous Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum, her parents introduced her to a universe of musical authenticity.

At age 9, Nabil developed an interest in Arab “tarab” singing and she soon began performing in school. At 12, she started voice training with the maestro Salim Sahhab at the Cairo Opera House.

During her stint on Arabs Got Talent, where she was awarded the Golden Falcon, Nabil was an audience favourite. She's now 17, and studying in the Arab Music Institute in Cairo, and is training with famed composer Abdo Dagher, who is also the last surviving violinist of the Umm Kulthum Orchestra.

Nabil will perform her show Laylat Saltana accompanied by the group Cordes Croisees, made up of elite Egyptian musicians.

Friday, February 7 – Majida El Roumi

The headline act, who is also closing out the event for the other year, is the exceptional voice of Majida El Roumi, long celebrated as one of the Arab world’s greatest singers. Known for her extraordinary vocal range, El Roumi has performed at some of the world’s most prestigious concert halls including the Olympia in Paris, Royal Albert Hall in London and Carnegie Hall in New York.

Discovered at a talent show at the age of 16, El Roumi released her first single Am Behlamak (I'm Dreaming of You, Lebanon) a year later. Over the ensuing four decades, she has released dozens of hits covering a variety of musical styles, from classical Arabic to modern Arab pop.

A graduate of Arabic literature, El Roumi sings romantic and patriotic poetry written by prestigious Arab poets such as Lebanese poet Nizar Francis and the Syrian Nizar Qabbani, who penned the poem Kalimat – one of her most-loved songs.