November 22, 2016

Five Things You Should Know About The World’s Number 1 Orchestra


The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra makes its Singapore debut next year with an exciting programme of Debussy and Bruckner under the baton of Daniele Gatti. Want to know more about them? Read on to find out!rco

1. In 129 years of orchestra history, the RCO has had only 7 chief conductors.

These conductors were Willem Kes (chief conductor from 1888 to 1895), Willem Mengelberg (1895–1945), Eduard van Beinum (1945–1959), Bernard Haitink (1963–1988), Riccardo Chailly (1988–2004) and Mariss Jansons (2004-2015), and Daniele Gatti (2016-present).

2. Their longest-serving chief conductor was Wilhelm Mengelberg, a Dutchman who attracted many leading composers such as Richard Strauss, Gustav Mahler, Claude Debussy (whose music will be played at the concert in Jan), and Igor Stravinsky to conducted the orchestra on more than one occasion.

Mahler worked so well with them that he went back as guest conductor for 10 occasions!

3. Imagine an orchestra called the Concert Hall Symphony Orchestra. Essentially, that’s what the word ‘Concertgebouw’ means. The Concertgebouw (concert hall) opened its doors on 11 April 1888, and the Concertgebouw Orchestra was established a few months later. This is also the same case with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, named after the concert hall, or Gewandhaus.

The RCO only came to be known as the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra a hundred years later in 1988, when Queen Beatrix conferred the ‘Royal’ title upon the orchestra.

4. Having worked with so many composer-conductors in their history, they boast an individual and unique sound because…

“They have an understanding of each composer like an actor understands his roles – they interpret, and shift into the appropriate character. It comes from a hunger to comprehend what is behind the notes. Notes are after all only signs, and if you only follow the signs they won’t get you there. Yet very few orchestras in the world have that quality of knowing the depth and the character of the music. We have many technically good orchestras these days. But this musicial intelligence, allied to the orchestra’s very personal sound, makes the Concertgebouw stand out.” – Mariss Jansons, 6th chief conductor of the RCO (from 2004-2015)

5. In the same survey by Gramophone that ranked the RCO as the world’s best orchestra, close contenders for the title were the Berlin Philharmonic (ranked 2nd) and the Vienna Philharmonic (ranked 3rd). Both Berlin and Vienna Philharmonic Orchestras have performed at Esplanade before.

Don’t miss your chance to catch the world’s number 1 orchestra for the first time here in Singapore, and see what makes them the very best! Happening at Esplanade Concert Hall on 23rd Jan, 2017! More information available here.

March 30, 2016

Three days to the show, and three questions about three operas…


Most would cringe at the idea of sitting through a whole opera, with lengthy, complicated plots and over-the-top staging sung in a foreign language. What if you had the chance to sit through three operas in the span of only one hour?

L’arietta Productions defies the notion that opera is a boring art form. Watch them take on the challenge of performing 3 modern operas in English, all in just under an hour in the middle of orchard road.

In Horovitz’s Gentleman’s Island, two Victorian gents are washed up on an island. How will they interact with each other when they haven’t been properly introduced?

In Window Shopping, written by local composer Chen Zhangyi, a girl and a woman ponder life, shoes, and priorities in a beautiful shoe shop.

Samuel Barber’s A Hand of Bridge explores the fantasies and the guilts of two couples that play cards every night, set in post-war America.

This production features Akiko Otao, Angela Hodgins, Brent Allcock, Reuben Lai, in a series of contemporary compositions directed by Jameson Soh.

Plink, Plonk, Plunk catches up with tenor Reuben Lai, who heads this project and performs as well.

How did you come up with the idea of having three operas in one hour?

R: We started out with A Hand of Bridge (by American composer Samuel Barber). Looking at the underlying themes, and the strength of our singers, we were able to incorporate a comedy from Horovitz (Gentleman’s Island). And we decided to include a local composer Chen Zhangyi’s Window Shopping  for a reflection into our lives driven by consumerism.

It’s a fun-sized production, giving the audience a fresh experience of opera within just one hour. All of the three operas also tend to have the same theme running through them, which was a very happy coincidence too and an example of perfect serendipity.

If you could sum up each opera in one word, what would they be?

R: Gentleman’s Island – Rules, Window Shopping – Consequence, Hand of Bridge – Desire

Which of the two characters in these three operas, if you could mix them up, would make the best couple? And why?

R: I think that Bill from A Hand of Bridge wouldn’t mind a night out with the pretty and young girl from Window Shopping. Come watch to find out why 🙂

“Honestly! 3 operas, one hour” explores the complexity of communication, and how we never really say what we mean through short contemporary operas.

Joseph Horovitz: Gentleman’s Island
Chen Zhangyi: Window Shopping
Samuel Barber: A Hand of Bridge

Good stories, fantastic music, all in one hour. Happening on Saturday, April 2nd, at 3pm and 7pm on the top floor of Orchard Central, at 10 Square. Tickets at $30 from

March 4, 2016

Dreams and Mirages: what happens when you put a harpsichord, piano and flute together?


Though most musicians have a preference for the genre of music they dabble in, flautist Roberto Alvarez feels equally at home playing anything from Baroque to Jazz, whether solo, in orchestras, or in chamber music groups of any size.

Known for his ‘consummate artistry’ and ‘hot blooded Spanish flair’ in his playing, the solo piccolo player of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra is a strong advocate of playing music of our time, by living composers. Composer/conductor Eric Watson interviews him ahead of the Spanish/Singaporean-centered programme he presents at Spectrum.

1) When you were choosing the works for this programme what were the considerations you had in mind?

Tien Yang and I were talking for years about the possibility of performing a full recital of contemporary pieces for flute and harpsichord. It all began like that. Then I thought it would be interesting to feature the piano as well, and I was willing to perform Zechariah Goh and Luis Serrano’s works. José Nieto is a very well known movie composer in Spain, and he had written Angelasia a couple of years ago for me. All these pieces seemed to work well together, but we still needed one piece featuring flute, harpsichord and piano. I hadn’t heard about such a combination before, so I commissioned a new piece to my former student Daniel Lim, who is studying composing at the Royal Northern College of Music, the same school where I studied. You can imagine how proud I am of making the World Premiere of Daniel’s Fata Morgana and also José Nieto’s Angelasia.

2) Do you feel that there is any particular synergy between Spanish music and Singaporean music?

It is very important for me to perform music of our time from both my homeland and the place I call home for 9 years now. I would say that there is not an obvious link in between the music from bounty countries, but somehow I feel both repertories work very well together. A unique example of this is the cd La Noche a recording of new pieces for flute and harp written by Singaporean and Spanish composers. Harpist Katryna Tan and I have toured Australia performing these pieces and the combination works perfectly.

3) What qualities do you particularly look for in contemporary flute music?

Absolutely the same qualities I look for in other repertories. It has to be a piece that somehow connects with me. A piece that is good to express feelings, a story, a concept, etc. Something that I have been noticing constantly for many years when I perform today’s music is that members of the audience are surprised of how appealing new music can be. There is a preconceived idea of contemporary music as something that they won’t understand, but I think that music can give you something that transcends understanding and it can connect to you in a very special way.

4) How does your performance differ when the accompaniment is harpsichord rather than piano?

Both instruments are quite different. It is a matter of sound combination. As in the orchestra, you use not only your best tone, but one that melts with other instruments. Depending on if you play solo, or with a clarinet, oboe, violin section, etc, your tone and articulation will be modified to adapt to the combination. In any case, these pieces are fantastically written and there is no problem of balance, which was one of my concerns at the early steps of the recital preparation.

5) What do you consider to be masterpieces of 20th and 21st century flute music?

I would never dare to tell about the 21st century because we just have begun listening to that repertory. There are many new composers that we will be discovering during the next years. As for the 20th century I will say Stravinsky’s The Rite of the Spring.


Dreams and Mirages will be the first time in Singapore (and possibly anywhere else) a piano, harpsichord and flute will join forces.  Happening on 8th March 2016 – next tuesday, 7.30pm at Esplanade Recital Studio. Don’t miss it! Get your tickets here now!

January 7, 2016

Didn’t manage to get a ticket for Israel Philharmonic Orchestra’s concert tonight?


Don’t fret, here’s another chance to catch members of the IPO in a free concert. Details below:

This January, six prominent members from the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra will be extending their stay in Singapore after their one-night concert conducted by Maestro Zubin Mehta to stage their first performance at the Singapore Botanic gardens since it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The IPO will be performing Vivaldi’s on the 10th of January 2016. The free-for-all concert will stand as an emblem of the close and enduring relationship that Israel has always shared with Singapore.

As each thematic movement is associated with a particular season, the composition brings to life moods and scenes from each period and inspires the imagination of the listener in conjuring up a vision of the changing seasons of the year.

A concert in the Park by the Members of Israel Philharmonic Orchestra

Date: Sunday, 10 January 2016

Time: 6pm to 7pm

Venue: Singapore Botanic Gardens, Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage

Admission: Free (Open to Public)

See you there!

November 27, 2015

Musings of an Artiste – a review


Musings of an Artiste
Esplanade Recital Studio
12 November 2015, 1930hrs

With such a title as ‘Musings of an Artiste’ and a poster with a dark background showing the artiste deep in thought (musing, presumably), one almost expects the repertoire to be big, heavy works of the 19th-century, where artist(e)s were admired, put on a pedestal, and revered as idols. The stage, too, was set to reflect a 19th-century style salon, with flowers underneath the piano and in large vases behind.

Instead, what a surprise it was when the repertoire turned out to be three sonatas from the Classical period, bordering on the cusp of Romanticism and in the key of E-flat major.

Haydn’s Sonata Hob. XVI:49 which opened the evening was a delightfully witty and light, peppered with contrasting moments of drama. The drama was brought out further in the Les Adieux sonata, written by Beethoven in expression of farewell to a dear friend the archduke Rudolph. Before playing, Lim gave an account of how he was given this work to learn when he first went to UK, as his teachers thought he could identify with the separation from his family and home. Revisiting this sonata, he gave a highly poetic and wonderfully detailed account of it, never letting the drama get the better of the structure and without over-the-top expression.

The 4-movement Sonata D.568 by Schubert which followed was a tribute to Ms Lim Tshui Ling, his former teacher. In it, Lim immersed the audience into the fluid, ever-changing harmonies of Schubert’s sound world, deftly navigating the delicate key changes. The opening Allegro had a dancing lilt to it, and the hushed pianissimos in the andante molto offered a warmth that was almost ethereal.

Although the absence of programme notes was evident at the start of the concert, Lim skilfully wove programme notes into his preambles before and in between pieces, making the evening more intimate and showing a side of the artiste that one doesn’t often see with other performers.

The dramatic and passionate side of Lim finally broke through in his encore of Rachmaninoff’s Prelude Op 23 no. 5; and since the key of E-flat major was the thread linking up the entire programme, ‘it would be a little perverse not to end the evening in E-flat major’, Lim quipped, and polished off Rachmaninoff’s Prelude op 23 no. 6 in understated virtuosity.


This recital was presented by Kris Foundation.