The InClassica International Music Festival returned to the UAE once again in February 2023, bringing with it dozens of artists and multiple celebrated orchestras for a series of live concerts at Dubai’s Coca Cola Arena and Dubai Opera.
As in previous years, the festival proved to be a huge success, with audiences from the UAE and beyond flocking to the concerts to experience performances of works by some of the biggest composers in global music history. However, perhaps the standout entry at this edition of the festival was not a historic composer, but rather a contemporary one, who is working and composing in our own day and age.
InClassica’s Composer-in-Residence, Alexey Shor, is no stranger to the limelight, with his works having been performed in such storied venues as New York’s Carnegie Hall, the Berlin Philharmonie, Vienna’s Wiener Musikverein among many others. The Ukrainian-born composer is notable for refusing to walk the expected line in contemporary music, choosing instead to prioritise the primacy of melody and lyricism in his pieces, while nevertheless maintaining modern attitudes and ideals.
As they have done all around the world, Shor’s compositions proved highly popular to concert-goers in Dubai, with many praising the accessibility of his music, his beautifully mellifluous phrasing and rich orchestration, as well as his ability to evoke powerful imagery through his expressive works. Moreover, this admiration was not solely limited to members of the audience, but was also shared by the artists performing the works themselves, including Hungarian violinist Kristóf Baráti, for instance, Artistic Director of the Kaposvár International Chamber Music Festival, who performed Shor’s Violin concerto No. 4.
“It’s very enjoyable to play”, he remarked. “I have had the luck to have the chance to play it several times in different venues. This version with chamber orchestra, with strings orchestra is actually new for me, and it has slightly different colours I think, compared to the symphonic orchestra version, which has definitely more colours but this has also a little bit more intimacy. I really enjoy the dramatic aspect and touch of this concerto, especially in the first and the last movement, and I personally like very much the language of Maestro Alexey Shor. I think it combines a very melodic style with a lot of atmosphere in his music; there is a lot to enjoy with it and I really believe that it gives the soloist the chance to add your own feelings, to add your own connection to that music as a soloist. Because with some music you may imagine that you have to follow certain things, certain rules, and with this music I really feel that you have a lot of freedom. It’s also quite romantic, so it’s really a joy to play.”
Baráti’s fellow musician, the famed UK pianist and conductor Marios Papadopoulos MBE, Founder and Music Director of the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra, expressed similar sentiments, noting that “we enjoyed very much playing the music of Alexey Shor, we’ve done a lot of it. He is obviously somebody that believes very strongly in melody and in harmony. He is not a composer of the avant-garde school if you like, which is very refreshing, extremely refreshing. It is accessible to people, you know, and at the end of the day we are here making music so that the listener, with whom we are communicating, can be moved by it, as an experience for you, and I think certainly that his music is very accessible in this way”.
With such glowing reviews from audiences and musicians alike, it is undeniable that Shor has managed to carve out a unique place for himself within the contemporary music scene, reminding people that classical music has a future as well as a past. Ultimately, this may be his greatest achievement yet among all his many accomplishments, since, as is the case with all art forms, classical music needs to keep moving forward in order for it to maintain the exalted spot it holds in our hearts and our lives, and with artists like Shor, it is safe to say that it is doing just that.