Dubai: The UAE’s first and only resident orchestra has been forced into closure after seven years due to lack of support, leaving the founder dejected and embittered.
The UAE Philharmonic Orchestra was set up by German-born conductor and concert pianist Philipp Maier, 49, who moved to the UAE in 2005 but has since relocated to Europe.
A director and conductor, he wanted to set up a local orchestra to perform a blend of classical arrangements, and European and Arabic music.
Originally known as the Dubai Philharmonic Orchestra, founded by Maier in 2005, it was renamed the UAE Philharmonic Orchestra in 2007 due to its wide recognition and participation of musicians from across the UAE.
It consisted of around 70 local musicians who performed regularly at private events, public concerts and corporate functions.
Maier told Gulf News he wanted to give residents in the UAE, a country that doesn’t have an orchestral history and a limited music scene, the chance to participate in their own orchestra.
He also had plans to form the first Emirati orchestra. He said he was convinced that the UAE would be a perfect breeding ground for arts in general due to its cultural diversity.
Despite his efforts, his plans didn’t materialise.
Maier said: “There is a complete lack of interest in the UAE in terms of support and funding. I have invested years of my professional life, abilities and creative efforts on non-fertile grounds.”
He expressed his thoughts on the classical music scene in the UAE by highlighting what he believes to be a lack of professionalism. “There is no real cultural platform in Dubai, and no interest from the government or private sector to create one.
“Neither is there the professional capacity of any kind to build one. There are far too many unprofessional musicians in the UAE who think they are capable of undertaking orchestral work or education. The efforts so far are petty examples of individuals trying to make the most money in the shortest time with music.”
He explained that due to lack of funding, UAEPO wasn’t able to provide its members, all professional musicians, with a steady income. This also made it difficult to attract other musicians.
An important factor that influenced his decision he says was the lack of government support.
He said: “There is no sincerity or even interest by officials or government entities to make professional classical music life a reality. Money is spent on importing rather supporting something from within the UAE. The only effort towards classical music has been to import big names like the Abu Dhabi Classics and Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation (ADMAF) festivals. I do not know of any serious professional cultural project in Dubai which ever received government support.”
However he said it is an achievement to get worldwide recognition of being one of three orchestras — besides the Royal Omani Symphony Orchestra and the Qatar Philharmonic — in the Gulf region.
“Sadly, even though the UAEPO has done positive work towards the recognition of the UAE in the world of music, the country has never done anything to help it.”
Maier’s plan is to work on projects in an environment which supports and funds arts and culture. He said that the UAE is a closed chapter for him.
A message on the UAEPO website reads: “Therefore it now means the end after seven years! This is sad and highly regrettable — for the musicians in the UAE, for the conductor, who invested years of his professional life, but especially for the many friends and regular audiences of the UAEPO, who will unfortunately now not be able to experience a fantastic musical project in the future anymore.”