Despite Kuala Lumpur being just a hop and skip away, it has been 17 years since the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) last performed there.
But all that is changing on Nov 19, when the orchestra will perform at the 920-seat Dewan Filharmonik Petronas in Kuala Lumpur, alongside a 100-strong combined chorus comprising the Singapore Symphony Chorus, Singapore Symphony Youth Choir and the Choir of the Transylvania State Philharmonic.
"This concert has undoubtedly been long overdue and we're very excited to finally be able to perform in Malaysia after a much too long hiatus," says SSO's music director, maestro Shui Lan, of the upcoming performance.
The concert will occur two days after a preview in Singapore on Nov 17, which will feature the same set list and be performed at the Esplanade Concert Hall.
According to Shui, the 17-year gap was not in any way intentional, given that the two orchestras have maintained a good working relationship over the years - sharing resources and artists across the border on a regular basis.
He says, referencing SSO's recent tours such as the one in Europe last year, that "because we were focused on a more international touring schedule, we did not get a chance, in recent years, to perform as much in the region. But it is good that we can now focus more on Asia, starting with Kuala Lumpur, which, too, has an orchestra with such strong international standing".
Shui will direct the SSO in three masterpieces by Brahms: the Schicksalslied (Song Of Destiny) and Gesang der Parzen (Song Of The Fates), as well as the sunny Symphony No. 2 In D Major.
BOOK IT / SSO: SONG OF DESTINY BRAHMS SYMPHONIES
WHERE: Esplanade Concert Hall, 1 Esplanade Drive
WHEN: Nov 17, 7.30pm; pre-concert talk at 6.30pm at library@esplanade
ADMISSION: $15 to $88 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg) and Esplanade Box Office
However, keeping in line with their theme of cultural exchange, the concert will open with 19-year-old Malaysian prodigy Tengku Irfan's newly minted Meditation for orchestra as a nod to the country's young and upcoming talent.
Because we were focused on a more international touring schedule, we did not get a chance, in recent years, to perform as much in the region. But it is good that we can now focus more on Asia, starting with Kuala Lumpur.
SSO’S MUSIC DIRECTOR SHUI LAN
The piece will receive its world premiere in Singapore two days earlier at the preview concert on Nov 17, before being performed in Malaysia for the first time on Nov 19.
Irfan is a student in the Juilliard School in New York, where he studies piano, composition and conducting.
This concert also marks the first time the volunteer-based Singapore Symphony Chorus will be performing overseas. Since it was formed in 1980, the Singapore Symphony Chorus has established itself as an outstanding choir in the region and one of the few symphony choruses in South-east Asia.
Led by choral director Eudenice Palaruan, it is made up of volunteers who are united in their love for choral singing.
Continuing their collaborative relationship further into the year, the Malaysian Philharmonic Youth Orchestra will perform at Singapore's Esplanade Concert Hall on Dec 13 as part of a youth orchestra celebration that will also feature the Singapore National Youth Orchestra.
The youth ensembles of Singapore and Malaysia enjoy close ties and have worked on several musical exchanges.
In November last year, the Singapore National Youth Orchestra and the Singapore Symphony Children's Choir performed in the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas as part of YouthFest there.
Mr Chng Hak-Peng, chief executive officer of the Singapore Symphony Group, says of the cultural exchange and collaboration between the two countries: "The SSO and Chorus are very excited to have this opportunity to share their music-making with the audience in Kuala Lumpur.
"And given that SSO is having its 40th anniversary season next year, it's even more special for us to be able to now share our music with audiences so close to home."