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Concert kicks off lead-up to opening of Louvre Abu Dhabi

AFP , Thursday 17 Mar 2016
 a performance inspired by the Louvre Abu Dhabi on March 16, 2016 in the Emirati capital
German-born music conductor Christoph Eschenbach leads an orchestra playing local Gulf melodies merged with Western symphonies (Photo: AFP)
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A season of events leading up to the opening later this year of the Louvre Abu Dhabi has kicked off with a concert mixing traditional Arab music with a classical Western orchestra.

Led by German-born conductor Christoph Eschenbach, the performance on Abu Dhabi's Saadiyat island on Wednesday evening saw 10 Emirati musicians playing alongside 120 members of the Vienna-based Gustav Mahler youth orchestra.

The ambitious Louvre Abu Dhabi project, announced with much fanfare nearly a decade ago, aims to promote the oil-rich United Arab Emirates as a leader in the global art world.

It has faced repeated delays but the opening of the museum -- set to host more than 300 works including from Leonardo da Vinci and Vincent van Gogh -- is now set for the end of this year.

Speaking to AFP before the performance, Eschenbach called the upcoming opening "a very important step" in the global development of art.
"That it is being celebrated with music is beautiful," he said.

Fathallah Ahmed, a composer who was part of the team that worked on merging the music written by Emirati oud player Faisal al-Saari with the classical Western symphony, called the performance "a very valuable opportunity to introduce Emirati music to the West".

Built at a cost of $500 million euros, the Louvre Abu Dhabi will feature 9,200 square metres (100,000 square feet) of gallery space.

Many of France's grand museums, including the Louvre, the Musee d'Orsay and the Palace of Versailles, will loan art to Abu Dhabi as part of a 30-year collaboration with the Emirate worth one billion euros.

Officials have described the Louvre Abu Dhabi -- designed by French architect Jean Nouvel -- as the largest cultural project in the world since New York's Metropolitan Museum opened in 1870.

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