Sir Simon to lead classic line up in Abu Dhabi

'We have truly arrived' on the international map of classical music, says the event's head of next month's Abu Dhabi Classics season.

ABU DHABI // Yo-Yo Ma, the virtuoso cellist, and Sir Simon Rattle, a famed conductor, lead a line-up of world-class performers for this year's Abu Dhabi Classics season, which begins on October 6. Highlights of the 2010-11 season include Daniel Barenboim, a gifted pianist and conductor, and the Orchestra del Teatro la Fenice, one of Italy's most prestigious ensembles.

"We have placed Abu Dhabi on the international map of classical music," said Till Janczukowicz, artistic director of the Abu Dhabi Classics. "The biggest indication is the level of excellence we have achieved this year with the names in our lineup; we have truly arrived. "Really, you cannot have bigger names than Yo-Yo Ma and Sir Simon Rattle." Sir Simon, described by Mr Janczukowicz as "one of the most revered and dynamic conductors of our time", will conduct the Berlin Philharmonic in its UAE debut.

Barenboim will conduct the Staatskapelle Berlin in performances of Tchiakovsky's fourth and fifth symphonies, and will also appear as a soloist for a Mozart piano concerto. Ma will perform Dvorak's cello concerto with Italy's Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI, while the Orchestra del Teatro la Fenice will perform sections of Rossini's Barber of Seville. Concerts will be held in the auditorium at the Emirates Palace hotel and Al Ain's Al Jahili Fort.

Most of the concerts will be accompanied by free events for children, giving them the opportunity to attend rehearsals, take part in master classes and listen to conductors and musicians discuss the works and their performances. "Thousands of children from all of Abu Dhabi's schools, each time, will have the opportunity to listen to and learn from the greats," Mr Janczukowicz said. Abdullah al Ameri, the director of arts and culture at the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, which is organising the concerts, stressed that the educational components will complement the performances, and will be the outstanding feature of the season.

"We are investing in children - the future of this country - through all aspects of culture," he said. Mr Janczukowicz said the level of youth involvement this season will be unique. "These big names in music become so glamorous because they provide outstanding artistic opportunities; they are not often asked to work with kids, but in this case they have been asked and are happy to do it." Young pianists, such as 10-year-old Leo Okurano, who is from Japan, is looking forward to the season. Leo, who started piano lessons in the UAE three years ago, is a fan of the master classes.

His mother, Shoko Okurano, said that during the five years her family have lived in Abu Dhabi they have watched the musical scene really take off. "We are lucky to be able to take Leo to this kind of an event, and have him involved, and even have him perform in the Emirates Palace with the other children," she said. "He gets so excited, especially when he attends the rehearsals." This year, however, Leo's parents are themselves looking forward to watching all the talent on show, and one performer in particular.

Tickets will be available from, and, from September 29, at the Emirates Palace hotel.