After announcing that he would step down in 2019, the Singapore Symphony Orchestra's (SSO) music director Shui Lan is not resting on his laurels.
The 59-year-old will conduct the Brahms Symphony Cycle, comprising four symphonies, for SSO's new 2017/2018 season.
This is in conjunction with the 120th anniversary of the death of German composer Johannes Brahms.
He will tackle Brahms' First Symphony on July 7, in SSO's season opener. The concert also features American violinist Gil Shaham, who will play Sergei Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 1.
Says Shui: "Brahms' music is known as the purest music. His music feels very personal to me and I feel it's the right moment to perform not only all his symphonies, but also his wonderful choral works during my penultimate year in SSO."
He had previously announced plans to step down to spend more time with his family. He is married with two sons, aged 12 and one.
BOOK IT / SSO: GIL SHAHAM | BRAHMS SYMPHONIES
WHERE: Esplanade Concert Hall, 1 Esplanade Drive
WHEN: July 7, 7.30pm. Pre-concert talk at 6.30pm at library@esplanade
ADMISSION: $15 to $88 from Sistic (go to www.sistic.com.sg or call 6348-5555)
"I always say I have a small family as well as another big family, which is the SSO. I will give as much as I can to SSO until my last minute here. After that, I can fulfil my long-awaited dream to spend time with my small family," he says.
I will give as much as I can to SSO until my last minute here.
SHUI LAN, music director of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra
The SSO recently appointed a new principal guest conductor, American Andrew Litton.
Litton, 58, is the music director of the New York City Ballet and the artistic director of Minnesota Orchestra's Sommerfest concerts.
Shui says the SSO is "really fortunate" to be working with Litton, who has "enjoyed a really wonderful working relationship with our musicians". The American was here last October for two programmes.
Litton says: "The one mysterious and often elusive ingredient of a conductor's relationship with an orchestra is the chemistry and, from the very first time I conducted the SSO, I could feel the positive energy between us."
He heaps praises on the SSO, describing it as "an orchestra of such a high standing". He singles out Shui and the SSO's board and management for building up its reputation "progressively and meticulously" and says that its "touring and recording presence continues to be on the highest level".
Litton adds: "There are many older orchestras around the world that envy the SSO's relatively meteoric rise to prominence and the support it receives from the Government and community."
He will conduct two programmes later this year, including Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony.
Highlights of the new season also include a concert version of the Puccini opera La Boheme and a live concert featuring American composer Leonard Bernstein's score for the musical West Side Story, along with a screening of the film. Both are in April next year.
Home-grown talents will also be well-represented. Throughout the new season, audiences will be reintroduced to past SSO commissions from Singapore composers such as Tan Chan Boon and Diana Soh.
These efforts are in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of Asean (Association of South-east Asian Nations) and will also showcase new works by Thai composer Narong Prangcharoen and Malaysian prodigy Tengku Irfan.
Award-winning conductor Wong Kah Chun, 30, will present his solo debut with the SSO on Aug 25.
Says Wong: "I am glad to count the SSO as one of the outstanding orchestras I will be conducting in my next season."