Classical music lovers in Dubai experienced a special evening on the 3rd of March, as Ukrainian-Austrian pianist Anna Ulaieva, one of the most exciting young talents in the international piano world, travelled to Dubai to perform in the city’s spectacular Coca-Cola Arena as part of the 2023 InClassica International Music Festival.
InClassica 2023 saw hundreds of musicians converging upon Dubai between the 12th of February and 10th of March, as the festival presented 4 weeks of evening concerts featuring 5 leading orchestras, 15 celebrated conductors and an astonishing 50 internationally-acclaimed soloists to audiences in the Middle East and beyond. Anna Ulaieva was at the forefront of this list, with the pianist, who is the First Prize winner of the 2018 Malta International Piano Competition, 2017 German Piano Open, 2013 Blüthner Golden Tone Award, and 2011 Josef Dichler Piano Competition, to mention a few, being one of the most eagerly anticipated artists on the roster.
For this concert, Ulaieva took to the stage alongside the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra for the first time in her career, with the ensemble performing under the baton of Founder and Music Director Marios Papadopoulos. First formed in 1998, the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra has been the Orchestra-in-Residence at the University of Oxford since 2002, in the first relationship of its kind between an orchestra and a higher education institution. The ensemble is currently celebrating its 25th-year anniversary, with this concert marking the end of a trip at InClassica 2023 that saw them make their Dubai debut a few days earlier.
The programme for the evening included Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, ‘Eroica’, an extremely influential work that is seen by many as a landmark step in the transition between the Classical and the Romantic era, as well as the Piano Concerto No. 3, ‘Childhood Memories’, from Composer-in-Residence Alexey Shor, which truly allowed Ulaieva to take centrestage, much to the delight of the Dubai audience.
An intimate composition in nine evocative movements, ‘Childhood Memories’ is a contemporary work inspired by the composer’s own youth, which loosely traces the path from early childhood to adolescence, bringing Shor’s experiences of these formative years to life. Initially composed as a work for solo piano in fourteen movements, this piece was later adapted by Shor himself, who arranged a nine-movement concerto version of the work to be performed alongside an orchestra, which is the version that was presented in Dubai.
Ulaieva’s interpretation of the piece was warmly appreciated by those present in the hall, with her ability to deftly navigate the concerto’s technically demanding and emotionally complex passages receiving wide applause and a minutes-long standing ovation following the conclusion of the work.
“I’ve been lucky enough to be able to hear the concerto by Alexey Shor quite a few times”, one audience member said. “It’s a really touching and beautiful work, and Anna Ulaieva’s performance was just wonderful, one of the best I’ve ever heard. Congratulations to her and the orchestra and conductor, they were all really great this evening”.
These sentiments were echoed by Papadopoulos, with the conductor, speaking after the concert, remarking that “we’ve met some really wonderful soloists that this festival has introduced us to – Andrey Baranov, David Aaron Carpenter, Anna Ulaeva – it was such a lovely experience to work with them, and we played quite a lot of the music of Alexey Shor, which we enjoyed very much. 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 them, and I think certainly that his music is very accessible in this way”.
Ulaieva herself shared a similar impression, noting that “it was a real pleasure to play Alexey Shor’s ‘Childhood Memories’. It’s such wonderful music and very touching and emotional. It’s not necessarily an easy piece to play, there are many technically challenging moments, but it’s a fun work, which makes it enjoyable to rehearse and perform, very melodic, and just really beautiful music. I loved it!”
Following InClassica, Anna Ulaieva will now continue with her packed schedule of concerts, masterclasses and appearances as a juror at various esteemed international competitions. To remain up-to-date with the pianist’s upcoming events, make sure to visit her official website at ulaieva.com.