American conductor James Gaffigan is looking forward to performing at the Esplanade Concert Hall after hearing only good things about it from his colleagues in the music scene.
"What I've heard from touring people is that you have to go to the concert hall in Singapore," says Gaffigan, 37, speaking to The Straits Times from New York.
"With some other places in Asia, it might be because of the fee or because it's known for being easy money. Singapore falls in the category of places such as Lucerne, Berlin and Tokyo - you need to go because the audience is extremely well educated and the concert hall is great."
He will lead the 64-member Lucerne Symphony Orchestra in a concert at the Esplanade on Sunday. The two-hour concert will include Overture from the grand opera Euryanthe by German composer Carl Maria von Weber, Piano Concerto by Norwegian composer and pianist Edvard Grieg and Symphony No. 8 by Czech composer Antonin Dvorak.
Georgian concert pianist Khatia Buniatishvili, who will feature in Grieg's piece, is "quite a character" and " a force", according to Gaffigan.
The conductor says of the 29-year-old pianist: "People know her by the way she looks and what she wears, but the fact is she is a great musician, with a brilliant musical mind."
BOOK IT /LUCERNE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
WHERE: Esplanade Concert Hall, 1 Esplanade Drive
WHEN: Sunday, 7.30pm
ADMISSION: $25 to $85 (Call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)
Gaffigan, who is married with two children, was appointed chief conductor of the Swiss orchestra in 2011. Last year, the orchestra extended the appointment to 2022.
"It's quite an old orchestra," says Gaffigan about the 210-year-old establishment, which is based in Lucerne, Switzerland.
"But the number of years doesn't mean it's better. It was a kind of a community orchestra really, meant to entertain the people."
But the New York City-born conductor says things are changing.
"People think about the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra and they don't know much about it. It's very new what's happening. In the past five years, the development has been extraordinary."
In recent years, the orchestra has been invited to perform at prestigious music venues around the world such as the Barbican Hall in London, Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow and Suntory Hall in Tokyo. Its current tour includes China and India.
Gaffigan says: "The orchestra is getting better every year. It's at an extremely high level. I think the audience is going to be shocked."