MPO performs Tchaikovsky in China

MPO’s 2nd tour to China will state its reputation as an orchestra with international standards as well as providing exposure for the MPO in the international arena


THE Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) is currently on its second “tour of duty” in China to perform selected works from the iconic Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

The tour brings the troupe to three cities. Last Saturday, MPO performed at the Beijing Concert Hall. The troupe then moved to Tianjin Grand Theatre on Nov 5, before heading to the Dalian Development Area Grand Theatre today.

Bakels Leads the MPO

During the last Chinese tour, Swiss composer and conductor Matthias Bamert led the MPO but for this tour, the baton will be passed to Kees Bakels (picture).

Bakels has been an important part of MPO as the Dutch composer has served as their founding music director until 2005 and oversaw the artistic direction for their first debut concert back in 1998.

He was held several distinguished positions back internationally as the principal guest conductor and artistic advisor to the Quebec Symphony Orchestra in Canada and regularly visits France with the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris and Orchestre National de Lille.

Back in his native land, Bakels served as the principal conductor of the Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra and has conducted major Dutch orchestras and worldwide in Europe, Australia and the US.

Since his focus is on opera and symphonic repertoire, the Dutch conductor has frequently appeared with the Netherlands Opera and the Vancouver Opera.

For 25 years, Bakels has conducted concerts for the VARA Matinee Series at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.

Bakels hails from Amsterdam and initially started his musical career as a violinist.

Violinist Yang Joins In

Joining the China tour is a talented native, Tianwa Yang. The violin virtuoso from Beijing has performed with prestigious orchestras such as the Leipzig and New Zealand Symphonies as well as the Dresden and Helsinki Philharmonics.

She has won many awards such as ECHO Klassik Instrumental of the Year 2015.

Although the good students around her studied abroad to prestigious music — The Juilliard School and The Curtis Institute of Music in the US — Yang is more interested to learn chamber music in Germany.

While in Germany, she collaborated with many local orchestras such as the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne under Christoph Eschenbach and Jukka-Pekka Saraste, the Gürzenich Orchestra Cologne under Nicholas Collon and the Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz under Karl-Heinz Steffens.

Yang has also performed alongside other major orchestras over the globe such as the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

In 2016, she made her debut at the Lucerne Festival and also the Rheingau Musik Festival in 2017 and 2018.

In March this year, she performed Max Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy at The Petronas Philharmonic Hall at the Kuala Lumpur City Centre.

Alongside Estonian conductor Olari Elts, Yang delivered traditional folk melodies in her virtuosic style.

With Bakels as the conductor, MPO will perform selected works from Tchaikovsky

An All-Tchaikovsky Theme

The MPO will perform three masterpieces from the legendary Russian composer which are Sleeping Beauty Suite, Symphony No 5 and Violin Concerto.

The Sleeping Beauty Suite is a ballet that was composed by Tchaikovsky around 1888 to 1889 and it was first performed in Saint Petersburg’s Maryinsky Theatre in 1890.

Tchaikovsky was inspired to compose the suite after a ballet based on Charles Perrault’s La Belle au Bois Dormant right after the idea was proposed to him in 1888. He later wrote the music during the fall of that year.

He began when the French-born choreographer and director of the Imperial Ballet in Saint Petersburg, Marius Petipa provided Tchaikovsky an extremely detailed scenario.

The premiere of Sleeping Beauty Suite was a great success and it was his first major works piece since his Symphony No 5.

The composer himself also believed that the suite was one of his best works, in which it tells the story of a princess who fell into a long slumber after she pricked her finger, only to be awakened by a handsome prince.

Much like the “Sleeping Beauty” fairy tales we all grew up with.

On another note, Symphony No 5 was composed between May and August in the year 1888 in which the first performance was held in the same year in Saint Petersburg.

The symphony revolves around the theme of fate although he did not reveal much about the meaning.

Fate is expressed through a low register of clarinets and strings.

Violin Concerto was written for an ex-student of another composer Yosif Kotek, in which Tchaikovsky had a close and possibly intimate relationship with the ex-student.

Initially, he dedicated the performance to virtuoso Leopold Auer to avoid any appearance of impropriety.

Unfortunately, Auer has been disappointing Tchaikovsky although he offered to help revise his score. At the end of the day, the composer decided to dedicate the performance to Adolph Brodsky.

Finally, the concerto premiered in Vienna in 1881.

Setting International Standards

MPO’s second tour to China will state its reputation as an orchestra with international standards as well as providing exposure for the MPO in the international The Chinese tour was held in 2006 where the MPO performed in Shanghai and Beijing.

The MPO has also performed in internationally around the Asia Pacific region most frequently in Singapore (1999, 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2018) and countries such as Japan (2001, 2009 and 2017), Korea (2001), Australia (2004), Taiwan (2007) and Vietnam (2013).