Cheers, wolf whistles for SSO in Berlin

The SSO at the majestic Dresden Frauenkirche (above), a restored 18th-century church.
The SSO at the majestic Dresden Frauenkirche (above), a restored 18th-century church.PHOTO: OLIVER KILLIG
Singaporean Chen Zhangyi (far left, pictured with Shui Lan) premiered his composition An Ethereal Symphony at the Berliner Philharmonie.
Singaporean Chen Zhangyi (far left, pictured with Shui Lan) premiered his composition An Ethereal Symphony at the Berliner Philharmonie.PHOTO: OLIVER KILLIG

Packed halls greeted the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) on its tour of Europe the past week, as it performed the works of classical music greats. The orchestra also gave audiences a taste of what Singapore has to offer, with a piece by home-grown composer Chen Zhangyi.

The five-city tour kicked off in Berlin on May 23, where it played at the famed Berliner Philharmonie. Dignitaries such as Germany's Federal Minister of the Interior Thomas de Maiziere, Minister-President of Saxony Stanislaw Tillich and Singapore's Ambassador to Germany Jai Sohan were among the 1,500-strong audience.

Under the baton of its music director Shui Lan, the orchestra's performance of German composer Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier, Op. 59: Suite "earned loud cheers and wolf whistles from the thrilled audience", says Mr Chng Hak-Peng, chief executive officer of Singapore Symphonia Company Limited, which runs the orchestra.

Principal clarinet Ma Yue says presenting Strauss' piece made the experience even more special as "we are playing a German work to the German audience".

"I think we rose to the challenge and gave a very convincing interpretation, judging from the warm response."

The first show also marked the European premiere of 31-year-old Chen's An Ethereal Symphony, which was commissioned for the tour.

The piece, which explores the idea of cosmic motion, harks back to his memory of his late grandfather, a former fisherman from a kampung in Punggol.

The SSO's tour takes it to cities that are steeped in classical music: Prague in the Czech Republic, which it revisits after 28 years; and Berlin, Munich, Dresden - where it played in the majestic Dresden Frauenkirche, a restored church built in the 18th century - and Mannheim in Germany, where it last performed in 2010.

It wraps up its tour tonight, with a final concert in Mannheim's historic Mozart Hall, where the orchestra will share the stage with acclaimed American violinist Gil Shaham.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2016, with the headline 'Cheers, wolf whistles for SSO in Berlin'. Print Edition | Subscribe