Last night I went to the Royal Albert Hall to listen to the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra, by invitation from the Qatar Foundation.
Although Arsenal, my favourite football team, was playing the crucial game against Barcelona in the Champions League, I sacrificed viewing the match as the musical program at the concert opened with the Overture from Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg by Richard Wagner, conducted by Maestro Lorin Maazel.
That in essence propelled me to the Albert Hall since, as a Wagner addict, I could not let the opportunity pass me by, and I was curious to find out how the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra would cope with a complex composer such as Wagner.
To my great surprise, the evening turned out to be most enjoyable and the orchestra, full of young talented women, played Wagner with the gusto it deserves and gained the approval and delight of an appreciative audience.
The second piece, entitled Arabian Concerto and Salute, composed by Marcel Khalifé and conducted by Lorin Maazel, was in my view the hit of the evening. It had everything going for it, from eastern promise to a haunting melodic structure. One felt entranced by the musical fusion of both east and west, and it was played beautifully by the orchestra, showing a particular flair worthy of its conductor.
The last piece, Qatar Symphony, composed and conducted by Dr Salem Abdul-Karem, was not in my view equal to the rest. I found it overlong and repetitive. However, its energy and power was in some way its saving grace.
The state 0f Qatar, which gave us the Al Jazeera television network and now the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra, is leading the Gulf states in its quest to spread Arab culture and its heritage throughout the western world.
Bravo Qatar! And keep the good work going.