A Modern Classic From Malaysia: Orchestra Comes to Seoul

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A Modern Classic From Malaysia: Orchestra Comes to Seoul

The Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, Malaysia's first international symphony orchestra, will play in Seoul on Nov. 26.

The orchestra made its debut on Aug. 17, 1998 at the Petronas Philharmonic Hall in Kuala Lumpur. In its short history, it has earned surprisingly high marks for such a young orchestra. The Seoul performance will be the orchestra's first performance outside of Malaysia and Singapore.

Certainly, the Malaysian Philharmonic's home could not be more impressive - the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. The 88-story towers are the tallest buildings in the world. The idea of incorporating an orchestral hall into the design came relatively late in the planning. The story goes that the chairman of the Petronas corporation Azizan Zainul Abidin, prior to planning the twin towers, wanted to found an orchestra.

He consulted IMG Artists, an international arts management company, and it recommended Kees Bakels as music director for the orchestra.

The Netherlands-born Mr. Bakels accepted the proposal, but on the condition that an exclusive concert hall be built for the orchestra. The chairman decided that between the two towers was the ideal home for the philharmonic.

The Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra consists of 105 musicians from 25 countries including Australia, Hungary, Japan, China and Vietnam. It also has five Malaysians. There is also a Korean, Chae Jun-hee, who plays the double bass.

The orchestra keeps a busy schedule, performing over 100 times a year at the Petronas Philharmonic Hall.

The orchestra, however, does more than just play to Malaysia's upper class. The members devote much time and effort to the orchestra's education and outreach program called "Encounter."

The program is a way to help Malaysian youngsters, who would otherwise have little opportunity to hear classical music, gain access to the musical style. Azizan Zainul Abidin believes that the orchestra is a public service, not a money-making venture. The orchestra thus offers many workshops, lessons and school concerts for the public.

The Seoul performance will be held at the Concert Hall of Seoul Arts Center. Led by Bakels, the orchestra will perform Hector Berlioz's "Corsair" Overture and Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2 in E minor.

Joining the orchestra in the evening will be a Japanese violinist, Yayoi Toda, who will present Max Bruch's Violin Concerto No.1 in G minor. Ms. Toda won the first prize in the Queen Elizabeth International Music Competition in 1993.

The performance starts at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 26, and tickets cost between 20,000 won ($15) and 50,000 won.

For more information, visit the Web site at www.sac.or.kr or call 02-598-8277 (English available).

by Lee Jang-jik

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