For the first time in five years, the University of Melbourne Symphony Orchestra will embark on an international tour this month, this time to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.
The tour celebrates the musical talents of more than 100 student musicians from the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music and its orchestral training program. Beyond showcasing skill, the tour offers a unique learning opportunity for students as they benefit from the rewards and challenges of international touring.
The tour begins with a sold-out performance at Melbourne’s Hamer Hall on Sunday 24 September, then travels to Yong Siew Toh Conservatory in Singapore, and Dewan Filharmonik Petronas in Kuala Lumpur.
Professor Richard Kurth, Director of the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, said the tour will accelerate the musicians’ performing experience and build the Conservatorium’s connections with partners in the Asia Pacific Region.
“This tour provides an inspiring platform for students to hone their skills and showcase their work in two of Asia’s most vibrant cities, and students and staff will also have learning interactions at peer institutions in both cities. We are thrilled to share our energies with the musical public and with University of Melbourne alumni communities in Singapore and Malaysia,” said Professor Kurth.
The program features powerful and challenging works by Gustav Mahler and Alberto Ginastera alongside a stunningly beautiful piece titled Hun Tur, commissioned especially for this tour by composer Dr Melody Eötvös, a Senior Lecturer in music at the Conservatorium.
Eötvös’s work draws inspiration from her Hungarian heritage, and this is reflected in the title with Hun a reference to Hungary’s early history and Tur a reference to the Turul Bird, a creature central to Hungarian mythology.
“This orchestral work draws on Hungarian folk songs and explores the implications of leaving out certain parts of the harmony, melody or even rhythm and then filling that space with variation and colour,” said Eötvös.
Ginastera’s Piano Concerto No. 1 is a virtuosic firework display for both soloist and orchestra that requires chameleonic skills – one minute, supporting the soloist and in the next, bursting with intensity.
Conservatorium piano student Timothy Kan features as soloist for this work.
In Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, the audience will witness the grandeur of over 100 musicians performing in harmony. Clocking in at over an hour, the piece demands precise pacing and immense discipline from both the players and the conductor to maintain musical integrity and stamina during the performance.
Associate Professor Richard Davis, who conducts the Symphony Orchestra, said the tour will be an enriching experience for students.
“With live music, no two performances are ever the same and performing on tour requires a completely new set of skills which the students will have to learn quickly,” said Associate Professor Davis.
“Usually, our players only meet a couple of times a week, but on tour, it’s 24/7. Performers are managing jet lag, different cities, hotels and new cultures; the one common denominator is the concert platform.
“One feels ‘at home’ on stage – nerves dissipate, and the ensemble reaches heightened levels of skill and interpretation. The orchestra will bring home an understanding of what is required to play in a global setting and an elevated ensemble standard.”
The tour will see students from Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music in Singapore learn from leading faculty members from the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music during a series of masterclasses, while performance staff from the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory will lead masterclasses for Melbourne Conservatorium students.
In addition to the two symphony orchestra concerts, there will also be a chamber music concert in Singapore, featuring Conservatorium students and staff performing side-by-side.
The University will host a dinner and a reception event for Malaysian alumni in Kuala Lumpur before the final concert.
Tour dates and venues:
- Melbourne, Symphony Orchestra program: Sunday 24 September, Arts Centre Melbourne, Hamer Hall
- Singapore, Symphony Orchestra program: Wednesday 27 September, YST Concert Hall, Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music
- Singapore, Chamber Music program: Thursday 28 September, YST Concert Hall
- Kuala Lumpur, Symphony Orchestra Program: Saturday 30 September, Dewan Filharmonik Petronas, Petronas Twin Towers, KLCC