The Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra celebrates 20 years with a special new season

Listening to classical music today has become the aural equivalent of eating your vegetables. Most of us probably grew up understanding its significance, but likely don’t enjoy its consumption as much as the grown-ups do. 

But classical music is timeless and indeed celebrated for a reason. To help further elevate and enhance the local scene, the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) and Dewan Filharmonik Petronas (DFP) will be embarking on a special concert season also in conjunction with their 20th anniversary. Dubbed the ‘20th Anniversary Special’, the season will run from August to December 2018 and will feature an impressive line-up of timeless masterpieces and acclaimed musicians.

Kicking off the season on August 17th is an inaugural performance by eminent conductor Jac van Steen who will present Smetana’s Bartered Bride Overture and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. The date also marks exactly 20 years since MPO’s first inaugural concert at DFP.

Then on the 15th and 16th of September, a Merdeka-themed performance, called Semalam Di Malaya, will take place. The night aims to celebrate the local icons of yesteryears such as the P. Ramlee classics, Sayang Di Sayang, Jelingan Manja, Tunas Kasih, Ibu, and Jauh Jauh among several others. There will also be performances by guest artists including Aishah, Liza Hanim, Musly Ramlee and the Rachel Guerzo Trio.  

Pink Martini (Source: The Center of the Performing Arts)
Pink Martini (Source: The Center of the Performing Arts)

Another highlight of the season is a one-night-only performance by American pop jazz group Pink Martini on the 22nd of October. Considered by many to be among the most elegant bands to see live, they will finally be returning to the DFP stage 8 years after their debut in 2010.

Other events to look forward to are the appearance of Upin & Ipin in a family-themed concert on the 14th of October and a National Geographic: Symphony For Our World concert on the 6th and 7th of October which will present a unique fusion of science and art. There will also be a vocal duel between Tomok and Black on the 28th of November, which will have sounds ranging from energetic rock to powerful ballads and a performance by Michael Cavanaugh, a Billy Joel protégé, on the 17th and 18th of November who will pay tribute to the renowned singer-songwriter.

This season will witness the debut of violinist Soyoung Yoon, cellist Istvan Vardi and conductor Roberto Gonzalez-Monjas and the return of harpist Leonard Jacome, pianist Stephen Hough and violinists Ray Chen and James Ehnes to the DFP stage. Audiences can also expect to witness a series of special concerts featuring the works of greats such as Hans Zimmer, Mozart and Vivaldi

Also in conjunction with the celebration of MPO’s 20th anniversary is the appointment of 20-year-old music prodigy and piano virtuoso Tengku Irfan as the new MPO Youth Brand Ambassador.

(Source: The Malaysian Reserve)
Tengku Irfan (Source: The Malaysian Reserve)

Once praised by the New York Times to possess “sheer incisiveness and power”, Irfan has made a name for himself on stages across the world. His orchestral piece, Keraian, was commissioned and premiered by the New York Philharmonic and his choral piece, Tragedi Dewi Suria, has been commissioned by Harold Rosenbaum and the New York Virtuoso Singers. He was also the winner of the 2012 ASCAP Charlotte Bergenn Award, and has won 3 ASCAP Morton Gould Awards. 

As a conductor, he made his debut in 2015 with the MusicaNova Orchestra where he led the premiere of his string orchestral piece, Nocturne. He also then conducted the premiere of Pengembaraan Minda dan Kenyataan at Lincoln Center, New York.

He is currently a student at Juilliard, taking a double major in piano and composition. He also studies conducting with George Stelluto and Jeffrey Milarsky.

As a Youth Brand Ambassador, Irfan’s role will be to cultivate a sense of appreciation for classical music among the younger generation.

“A misconception that often arises is that classical music is only understandable by the elite,” Irfan says. “The best way to change this is by increasing exposure.”

Irfan hopes to introduce young people of all ages and backgrounds to the charm he finds in classical music. He hopes that, with the right exposure, more young adults will come to recognise the true elegance and power of some of his favourite composers like Beethoven and Verdi.

Audiences wanting to see Irfan live can attend MPO’s August 17th inaugural performance where Irfan will be performing Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and conducting the MPO through Dvorak’s Carnival Overture

Much like eating your vegetables, classical music is as good for you as the grown-ups say.

Many of us recognise names of the greats like Bach and Vivaldi yet fail to comprehend why they were ever celebrated.

Exposure to the genre is what we need. A night at DFP could perhaps be the perfect gateway.

The Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra’s 20th Anniversary Special will feature a series of special concerts from August to December 2018. For more information, you can check out their website.

Featured Image Source: Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra

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