Till Janczukowicz promised more Beethoven for this season of Abu Dhabi Classics, and this week we get the most Beethoveny Beethoven there is. "The main purpose" of the programme, its artistic director told me last year, is to present "the core repertoire of classical music - the main classical and Romantic repertoire in the best possible performances in Abu Dhabi". Hence - dan-dan-dan durrrnnnn! - the Fifth. It's the most famous piece of music on the planet, and it's being played for us on Thursday by the London Philharmonia, under the direction of Jukka-Pekka Saraste, the Finnish conductor whose programme of Grieg, Tchaikovsky and Sibelius pieces last year was my highlight of the season.
To sweeten the pitch, there's also Mozart's ninth piano concerto, the composer's 21st birthday present to himself and, by wide consent, his first out-and-out masterpiece. There's a nice historical angle in the pairing of these two pieces: Mozart's most ear-catching device here - the abrupt and early appearance of the piano - was utilised by Beethoven to great effect in his last two piano concertos, and, more generally, Mozart's gatecrashing approach to form seems to have been one of the inspirations behind Beethoven's escape from 18th-century aesthetics altogether. That transition is cemented in the Fifth, of course. From classicism to Romanticism in seven not-so-simple movements: how's that for core repertoire?
Less obviously on-point for Janczukowicz's agenda is the following night's programme of music from Disney films. It is to be performed by the London Philharmonia with the help of a choir of Abu Dhabi schoolchildren, and conducted by Allan Wilson, whom I found at last year's session to be one of the most entertaining conductors I have ever seen. If Disney's own animators were to design a maestro character, they would probably come up with something like him. A word of warning, though: the previous Disney concert used the existence of Fantasia as a licence to play a lot of unadvertised grown-ups music. It's possible that they'll try the same thing on again. Caveat auditor, kids, caveat auditor.
On Tuesday, the B21 gallery in Dubai kicks off its new year with its second solo exhibition from the Iranian painter Nargess Hashemi. Wrap Me Up in You follows on from Hasmemi's earlier show, Stories from the Boudoir, in exploring intimate aspects of her family life, but the focus here is on her recent, as opposed to childhood, experiences. In the new show, photographs of happy family gatherings are reproduced as skeletal illustrations on transparent sheets, backed with wrapping paper. That last touch might suggest, if you'll pardon the pun, the way social ritual insulates against Iran's grim present. Still, beneath the play of symbol and innuendo, these are beautiful works and worth your attention.
Opening the same night and running until the 17th we have a theatrical oddity at the reinvigorated Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre. Animal Farm is a one-man rendition of Orwell's political fable, performed with minimal props and a variety of livestock impersonations by Gary Shelford. It lasts nearly two hours - longer than the book, surely - but has apparently kept audiences rapt over the past few yearwscription I admit it sounds unappealing, but the darnedest things can work on stage.
Finally, on the subject of plays that are better than they sound, the XVA gallery is concluding its series of film screenings with a film of Samuel Beckett's best-known theatre work, the clown comedy-cum-existential nightmare En Attendant Godot. It's a landmark of the modernist stage and a terrific piece of writing yadda yadda, but I haven't seen this film of it and so will refrain from comment.
Instead here's a passage from David Kynaston's new history, Family Britain, 1951-57, which describes a performance of Godot in Blackpool in 1955: "Advertised as 'inimitable' and 'priceless', Beckett's play arrived at the Grand Theatre, Blackpool, on June 4, to find itself up against stiff competition: the Dave King Show at the Winter Gardens Pavilion, Albert Modley, supported by Mike and Bernie Winters starring in Summer Showboat at the Palace Theatre, and, twice nightly at the Central Pier, Let's Have Fun, with Jimmy James, Ken Dodd, and Jimmy Clitheroe. It proved to be, according to the local newspaper, 'one of the stormiest receptions in the theatrical history of Blackpool'."
Beckett would have been amused, of course. Here's hoping it (and Animal Farm) play better in Dubai.