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Tuneful Treats at the DFP

  • By Myrddin Emrys
  • August 20, 2002

By Cheryl Lim

The Dewan Filharmonik Petronas’ (DFP) 01/02 Concert Season ended on a colourful note in late July with a musical drama and dance medley performed by the Petronas Performing Arts Group (PPAG). It was an exciting season, to say the least, with numerous guest artistes and orchestras coming to our shores to share with us their brand of music, be it classical, jazz or ethnic.

Leading the parade of international guest soloists was, of course, the immensely talented Boris Berezovsky who performed at the 01/02 Gala Opening Concert. Other memorable soloists include such diverse personalities as highly energetic organist Simon Preston to quietly reserved pianist John Lill. And who could forget the explosive Eitetsu Hayashi on the wadaiko drums? We all have him to thank for an excellent introduction to the sounds of traditional Japanese drums.

We also had our fill of world-class orchestras and conductors as well. Maestro Yuri Temirkanov led the way in the International Series with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra. The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra together with celebrated cellist Truls Mørk gave a polished performance under the baton of the enigmatic Mariss Jansons, living up to their reputation of being one of the best American orchestras. Diminutive conductor and pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy closed the series on a truly exceptional note with a one-night only performance featuring Beethoven’s spellbinding Grosse Fugue (Op.133).

The International Jazz series gave us the opportunity to tap our feet to the sounds of the inimitable Count Basie Orchestra and gravel-voiced crooner Freddy Cole. Not to be outdone, the World Music Series had its share of high notes with a stunning performance by young sitar virtuoso Anoushka Shankar, topped off with the party-like atmosphere that was The Chieftains “live” on stage, complete with Ottawa Valley folk dancers and a guest singer all the way from Japan!

Adding colour to the season’s proceedings was Carl Davis’ tribute to the locomotive with his trademark black and white films set to music, aptly called Full Steam Ahead. Resident Conductor Dato’ Ooi Chean See gave the Family Fun Days an Eastern touch with A Salute to Chinese New Year, complete with a “dragon” in attendance and East Meets West, a collaboration with the PPAG’s gamelan section. Associate Conductor Kevin Field took a more eco-friendly approach to things with an insect-inspired performance titled (what else?) Bugs.

The Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra tackled a wide selection of compositions ranging from Gershwin in Around the World in 80 Minutes to the Strauss family in A Viennese New Year, ending the season with a performance of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 in C Minor.

Undoubtedly, the highlight of the 01/02 Season was the Kuala Lumpur BBC Proms. This effort to introduce music to the masses was a commendable one. An exhibition on the history of the Proms and classical music was held at the DFP foyer, talks were organised, and there were live performances in the KLCC Concourse Area. It was a weeklong festival that culminated with a live relay of the traditional “last night of the Proms” to two giant screens in KLCC Park, complete with live commentary by MPO Resident Organist, Dr. Marc Rochester.

BBC Symphony Orchestra Conductor Laureate, Sir Andrew Davis, wowed local audiences with his friendly demeanour. None of the stiff British upper lip here. The BBC Symphony Orchestra played admirably and collaborated well with the MPO musicians as well as the PPAG and local gamelan group, Rhythm in Bronze, in an excellent concert featuring a composition by our very own Sunetra Fernando, entitled Wayang. Kudos to MPO General Manager, C. Stephen Smith for organising the KLBBC Proms. Here’s to more Proms magic sometime in the near future!

Looking at the coming 02/03 Concert Season, the DFP’s fifth so far, things seem pretty quiet compared to the rather eventful season that’s just gone out the door. However, the new season promises to showcase more new and contemporary compositions, including those by local composers Tazul Tajuddin and Kee Yong Chong. Local performers making their debut at the DFP are UK-based Penang-born pianist Dennis Lee as well as our very own Professional Cultural Centre Orchestra with conductors Lu Rirong and Chew Hee Chiat.

The Gala Opening concert features a return performance by the immensely talented Vladimir Feltsman. In his second appearance here, the American-based Russian-born pianist will play Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in 8-flat minor, Op.23. Other artistes making a comeback to the DFP include soprano Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, conductors Carl Davis, Sir Neville Mariner and Paul Dyer, as well as soloists Maurice Bourgue (conductor and oboe), Kyoko Takezawa and Leonidas Kavakos (violin) along with Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Leif Ove Andsnes (piano).

This season’s world-renowned guest orchestras include the New York Philharmonic with its remarkable musical director, the legendary Lorin Maazel. Their performance will include guest pianist Lang Lang, last seen at the DFP with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra. Also performing are the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra of Moscow Radio under the baton of Vladimir Fedosseyev and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra with conductor Herbert Blomstedt.

Noticeable changes include a two-week long Beethoven Festival in place of the highly enjoyable KLBBC Proms. Held in conjunction with the composer’s birthday that falls on December 16, the festival features the MPO and guest pianist Anton Kuerti performing some of Beethoven’s greatest works. The Jazz and World Music Series have been merged into one, reducing the number of guest artistes to just five from the past season’s eight. This season is more jazz oriented with three prominent jazz acts – the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, the Dave Holland Quintet and Abdullah Ibrahim with his African jazz band Ekaya. Also not to be missed is powerful-voiced diva Albita who promises a taste of that hot, sultry Afro-Cuban sound.

The Petronas Performing Arts Group turns to the Malay classics for inspiration and comes up with three productions for the new season. Kicking off in February 2003 with dance-drama Mahsuri, followed by another dance-drama called lstana Menanti, and finishing off with musical Demang Lebar Daun, the PPAG looks all set to bring the rich tapestry of Malay legends to life with their lavish costumes and unique choreography.

Yes, it looks like another interesting season ahead as the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas steps into its fifth year of playing host to a wonderful collage of music, song and dance.

First Published: 20.08.2002 on Kakiseni