Saturday, February 16, 2008

English Concert Tour of the UAE

Al Ain, 31st January 2008

Sheikh Khalifa Auditorium, in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at Tawam Medical Campus was packed on Thursday night – the English Concert were in town, ending their tour of the country.

In his welcoming opening remarks, HE Sheikh Mohammed Khalaf al-Mazroui, the Director General of Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, said he hoped the English Concert had saved the best until last – they duly obliged with an excellent evening’s music.

The concert began with the work of an ‘adopted Englishman’, George Frederick Handel – his Concerto Grosso in A op.6 no.11, which, the copious programme notes informed us, was actually the last of a set of 12 to be written by a then ailing Handel.

J.S. Bach’s Cantata ‘Weichet nur, betrubte schatten’ – the ‘Wedding Cantata’ came next and was delightfully suggestive of a special occasion in Springtime. The Soprano, Lucy Crowe gave us a hint of her great range.

In the time honoured tradition of concerts in London, New York or Berlin, the conductor, Harry Bickert, treated the audience to an amusing anecdote; this one from Handel’s life. During the hectic rehearsal of one of his difficult operas, Handel, infuriated by the antics of his petulant prima donna, the Italian singer, Cuzzoni, actually threatened to throw her out of one of the upper windows of his Brook Street home.

Harry Bickert got things underway after the brief interval, with three arias for Cleopatra from the opera, ‘Giulio Cesare in Egitto’. It was in this fine music that we were truly entertained by Lucy Crowe’s amazing vocal range, poise and verbal dexterity, I know not what to call it.

Finishing with Geminiani’s Concerto in D Minor ‘La Folio’, before leaving to great applause from a very appreciative audience in which only a very few took pictures on their mobile phones in mid-concert, Harry Bickert gesticulated to his players that an encore was appropriate.

The treat was a great one; Handel’s ‘Arrival of the Queen of Sheba’ – epitomizing his vast output, composed at his famous home of 36 years, 25 Brook Street, where he lived until his death in 1759, and which now houses The Handel Museum.

The evening was courtesy of HH Sheikh Tahnoun bin Mohammed Al Nahyan, the Ruler’s Representative in the Eastern District of the Abu Dhabi Emirate, and the British Embassy, represented on this lovely evening by Edward Oakden, the British Ambassador to the UAE.


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