A muti-coloured Three Nations concert by the MPO

July saw the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra in another collaboration with MCC, this time for the Three Nations concert together with ACL Korea and Composers Society of Singapore. The three associations contributed three works each to the programme that gave a broad picture of new music across these three countries, and the diverse sounds and styles across the nine composers.

The concert was well-attended and saw the presence of dignitaries from the local embassies of Korea and Singapore, Minister Counsellor Yoo Kwang from the Korean embassy (right) and Ruthanne Soh, Second Secretary from the Singapore High Commission (photo below).

The evening’s programme opened with Singapore’s Elliot Teo’s wry brass quintet ‘Petals in the Sun’ with its wonderful interplay between the instruments and rhythmic excitement. The brass sound wonderful in their warm shades of red, orange and yellow painted by the composer.

Korean composer Sunyeong Pak’s more musically challenging ‘Remnants’ for flute, violin, cello and piano takes the audience into a world of strange sounds from the ensemble, played by the musicians with a lovely dance lilt letting the various fragments swirl around like a miniature musical storm. The musicians maneuvered the intricacies of this highly difficult score with great finesse, serving up a treat of unusual colours and textures.

After the sonic chaos, Johan Othman’s pensive ‘Ada Angin Bertiup’ provided some soulful balm with the composer’s thought-provoking insights into the physical and metaphysical world of wind and spirits that was alternately calming and disturbing.

Singapore's Emily Koh offered up a playful selection of spices – the star anise, fennel and pepper – for prepared piano and cello, which showed plenty of imagination in her piece ‘Smidgens’.

ACL Korea president Seung Jae’s ‘6 Moment Musicaux’ was delightful, with its fruity woodwind flavours and somewhat neoclassic style benefiting from the MPO musicians’ lovely tone colours and playful execution, bringing the first half to a close. 

Space, distance and meditation

The second half kicked off with Ainolnaim Azizol’s ‘Fragments’ for two trumpets, a wonderful interplay of timbers and space. This was followed by a deeply felt, very Korean in the modern sense, a meditation for flute and cello. Kyungmee Rhee’s ‘Echoes From An Old Tree’, which featured some very idiomatic flute playing, and an intense dialogue with the cello.

This was followed by a product of Covid-19 lockdown, which saw CSS president Hoh Chung Shih explore the idea of estrangement in his ‘Distancing Etude’ for an ensemble of strings, winds and piano. Here the socially distanced musical fragments were expertly woven together by conductor Gerard Salonga, who brought out the poetic heart of the seeming chaos.

The evening was capped by MCC president Adeline Wong’s ‘Jalinan’, given a sensitive, broad reading with its chant-like lines and hallowed atmosphere by the string quartet, painting wonderful lush textures.

The MPO musicians showed plenty of musicianship under the sensitive direction of Salonga, who despite being faced with nine completely unfamiliar scores, managed to bring out the poetry of these diverse works and highlight interesting aspects of these modern compositions.

On the whole, it was a wonderful evening of music making by the MPO serving up truly a kaleidoscope of colours and moods at the Dewan Filharmonik, which after two years of lockdown measures, was alive with new and fresh sounds once again. 

(Concert photos by Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra)

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