While music, to misquote William Congreve, certainly has the charms to soothe the savage beast, it also has the wings to make time fly. This month, the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra embarks on its 20th season, lining up another array of top performers and exciting repertoire at Dewan Filharmonik Petronas (DFP) that will surely thrill music lovers of all ilks. The 2017/18 Season opens on a high note with Beethoven’s groundbreaking Symphony No 9 on 12 and 13 August. The weekend performances of The Mighty Ninth will feature will, almost literally, a cast of thousands, including the MPO, Malaysian Philharmonic Youth Orchestra – celebrating its 10th anniversary this year – the MAX Philharmonic Orchestra from Tokyo, a quartet of soloists, the Choir of Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, Kuala Lumpur’s Dithyrambic Singers and MAX Philharmonic Chorus. MPO Resident Conductor, Naohisa Furusawa, will lead the spectacle, which will also open with a new MPO commissioned work by local composer Vivian Chua.
Another local composer will take centre stage in September when the MPO performs Onn San’s stirring soundtrack to accompany a live screening of the hit movie, Ola Bola. The show will also feature new music composed by Onn San especially for these concerts. Malaysia piano virtuoso, Tengku Irfan, who’s currently based in New York, makes a return to DFP to play Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 5 on 30 September and 1 October. The first in a season-long survey of the composer’s five piano concertos, he will be accompanied by the MPO and Furusawa, who will also perform Beethoven’s Symphony No 7.
Tengku Irfan, incidentally, will not be the only Malaysian pianist to perform Beethoven at the DFP this season. Mei Yi Foo, who won Best Newcomer in the BBC Music Magazine Awards for her début disc, Musical Toys, in 2013, tackles the Piano Concerto No 3 in October, while Loo Bang Hean and Bobby Chen take on the Piano Concertos Nos 2 and 4 in March 2018.
Another virtuoso of the keyboard, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, will add some exoticness when he does a turn on Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No 5, the ‘Egyptian’, on 28 and 29 October.
UMW Toyota Motor’s annual Toyota Classics concert takes place at the DFP on 31 October, this time with the highly acclaimed Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra and conductor Anthony Weeden for an evening of Mozart, Elgar, Faure and Haydn. Another orchestra visiting the DFP is the Singapore Symphony Orchestra – on 19 November, the orchestra, with Music Director Lan Shui, the Singapore Symphony Chorus and Youth Choir will perform the Malaysian premiere of Tengku Irfan’s Meditation followed by a programme of Brahms.
The countdown to the end of the year starts with a bang when legendary rock icon, Ella, will bring the house down with two solo concerts at the DFP in December. Backed by the MPO conducted by Ahmad Muriz Che Rose, the Queen of Rock will celebrate her illustrious 30-year career with a trip down memory lane with her biggest and most memorable hits. Expect something more laidback the same month, when Furusawa leads the MPO and MPYO in Classics at the Movies, which will survey music from films like Die Hard 2 (Sibelius), Pirates Of The Caribbean (Badelt), Apocalypse Now (Wagner), Eyes Wide Shut (Shostakovich) and, of course, Star Wars (Williams).
Two tributes to the Leonard Bernstein centennial next year will kick off the new year in January. The Best of Bernstein’s Broadway takes on the composer’s timeless Broadway compositions like West Side Story, On the Town, Candide, Wonderful Town and Peter Pan, while Bernstein at 100 surveys Bernstein’s orchestral works like Symphony No 2, ‘The Age of Anxiety’, Divertimento for Orchestra, and the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story.
The Ballet Festival in February sees the Ballet of Armenia making its début with scenes from Tchaikovsky (The Nutcracker and Swan Lake) and Khachaturian (Gayané and Spartacus) choreographed by Armen Grigoryan. More Tchaikovsky can be had in March when conductor Stanislav Kochanovsky, soprano Tatiana Pavlovskaya, contralto Irina Shishkova, tenor Pavel Cernoch, baritone Alexey Markov and the Kuala Lumpur City Opera Chorus perform highlights from the lyric opera Eugene Onegin. The programme also includes Rachmaninoff’s The Bells.
Those wowed by the performances of Cirque de la Symphonie at the DFP in 2015 can catch another look at this unique and elegant fusion of circus and live orchestral music when the troupe returns in May. Another May returnee is the wildly popular Music from Anime – Furusawa and MPO will be joined by the Japanese School of Kuala Lumpur Children’s Chorus in music from anime productions like Howl’s Moving Castle, Laputa: The Flying Island and My Neighbor Totoro.
The final concerts of the 2017/18 Season, appropriately enough, feature a violin virtuoso and heavyweight symphony. The concerts on 9 and 10 June see the return of Joshua Bell, who will surely thrill with his usual incandescent playing in Bruch’s Violin Concerto No 1, while guest conductor Mark Wigglesworth can be expected to match him with the MPO in Bruckner’s lyrical and majestic Symphony No 7.
Tickets to the 2017/18 Season are now on sale. For booking and further details, visit mpo.com.my