From the Baltic to the Persian Gulf – Baltic Sea Philharmonic completed tenth anniversary year with tour of the United Arab Emirates

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Dropping yourself into an ocean in the desert? Discovering the land of 1,000 princes? What sounds like a fairy tale from 1,001 Nights has become reality. During five exciting days with two unforgettable concerts, the Baltic Sea Philharmonic and Kristjan Järvi have completed their tenth-anniversary year and their first ‘Waterworks’ tour to the United Arab Emirates – the orchestra’s first tour outside Europe. The tour featured performances in Abu Dhabi on 11 November and Dubai on 14 November, with orchestra playing to over 2,800 people.

Beside letting it rain in the desert, the Baltic Sea Philharmonic performed the entire programme by heart at both concerts – another first for the orchestra and a world premiere. Championing memorised performances has given the Baltic Sea Philharmonic a unique identity in recent years. Having made history in 2017 by becoming the first orchestra in the world to perform Stravinsky’s The Firebird from memory, the ensemble took playing by heart to a new level.

‘Waterworks’: from the Baltic Sea to the Persian Gulf
Prior to the orchestra’s historic tour of the UAE, 60 musicians came together in Germany for three days of intensive rehearsals before they left Europe to make the 6,500km journey to Abu Dhabi. The orchestra’s revolutionary ‘Waterworks’ programme, presented in collaboration with Sunbeam Productions, brought a new dimension to the concert experience for audiences at the Dubai Opera and a sold-out Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. State-of-the-art lighting by Bertil Mark, sound design by Chris Ekers and cutting-edge projection art by Philipp Geist created an immersive environment in which sound and music were fused with light and images – transforming both of the beautiful concert venues.

The water-inspired musical programme brought together selections from Handel’s Water Music with a new orchestration of Philip Glass’s Aguas da Amazonia. Handel’s music was framed by two contemporary pieces, Drenched by Charles Coleman and Flux by David Rozenblatt. The concert in Dubai also featured Glass’s Violin Concerto No. 2 ‘The American Four Seasons’, performed by Russian-born soloist Mikhail Simonyan. For both concerts, the orchestra celebrated a reunion with three members of the New York-based Absolute Ensemble: trumpet player Charlie Porter, bassist Mat Fieldes, and percussionist and Flux composer David Rozenblatt. All three already joined the Baltic Sea Philharmonic on its first ‘Waterworks’ tour in 2017 of Germany and Denmark.

In the UAE, audience members praised the orchestra’s performances, with Julie Adrienne Troup, who attended the concert in Abu Dhabi, commenting afterwards on Facebook: ‘A performance of mesmerising inspirational beauty that resonated with us. Wow!’ Another Abu Dhabi concert goer, Grace S. Thomson, wrote on Facebook: ‘It was spectacular. Young musicians and a beautiful selection of masterpieces. We loved it!’

New partnership with UAE Ministry for Culture and Knowledge Development
The orchestra’s ‘Waterworks’ tour was a big success. And we’re very proud – as a result – to start a strategic collaboration with the UAE’s Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development, one of the tour’s principal supporters. As a celebration of the new partnership, Emirati singer Jasim Mohamed Abdullah joined the orchestra at Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Palace to perform the traditional song ‘Sayyidi ya sayyed saddati’. The concert in Abu Dhabi was attended by the UAE Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, H.E. Noura Al Kaabi. The Baltic Sea Philharmonic and the Ministry anticipate that this successful tour will lay the ground for future cultural collaborations between the Baltic Sea countries and the United Arab Emirates. From the Baltic to the Amazon, and now to the Persian Gulf, our journey through the waters of the world shows we are all connected. We hope you enjoyed riding the waves with us!

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