Chinese-American conductor Lan Shui has laid down his baton as music director of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO), but the orchestra has named the 61-year-old its conductor laureate to honour his 22 years of service.
The announcement was made last Saturday before Shui conducted the SSO, the Singapore Symphony Chorus & Youth Choir and several other choruses in a performance of Mahler's Resurrection Symphony at the Esplanade Concert Hall.
He told The Straits Times ahead of the performance that the symphony was chosen to mark the end of his period at the helm of the orchestra, but also to anticipate its future. "Mahler writes about death as a wonderful life passage. This second symphony describes the end of a phase; death is one phase and beyond that is yet another - the 'resurrection', so to speak."
He added: "This concert is also a celebration of 22 years with the orchestra, with the audience, with everyone in Singapore."
The title of conductor laureate is honorary and Shui will not have an advisory role with the orchestra, though Mr Goh Yew Lin, chairman of the Singapore Symphony Group, said: "We look forward to working with him as an honoured guest conductor for many years to come."
Shui was first invited to conduct the SSO in 1993 by its founding music director Choo Hoey and became its music director in January 1997. Under his tenure, the orchestra has attracted well-known soloists such as cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and iconic conductors such as Russia-born Vladimir Ashkenazy and Shui's own mentor, Estonia-born maestro Neeme Jarvi. The SSO has also performed at the well-known BBC Proms music festival in 2014 and given several successful overseas tours.
Shui, who is a Singapore permanent resident, is giving up his post at the SSO to spend more time in Denmark with his wife and two sons, aged 13 and three.
Mr Goh of the Singapore Symphony Group board added: "Lan Shui has in his quiet but determined way built an orchestra that all Singaporeans can be proud of. He has been friend and mentor to the musicians of the SSO and has inspired a whole generation of musicians and music lovers over the past 22 years. The board unanimously voted to confer the title of conductor laureate to acknowledge his dedication and his achievements as the SSO's music director and also to commemorate our continuing friendship."
Shui says: "It's a great honour for me to be conferred the title of SSO conductor laureate. It's been an amazing 22 years and the farewell concerts were so emotional for me. I have so much love for this orchestra and this title reflects a continuation of our warm and close friendship."