Published on 26 January 2019
After 22 concert seasons with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, Lan Shui ends his tenure this month as SSO’s Music Director, with two farewell concerts on 25 and 26 January. In recognition of his contributions, the SSO will accord him the honorary title of Conductor Laureate after he steps down.
Lan Shui Farewell concerts
25 & 26 January 2019, 7.30pm, Esplanade Concert Hall
Guest of Honour (on 26 January):
Minister Grace Fu, Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth
Lan Shui first conducted the SSO in 1993, performing Strauss’s Death and Transfiguration, and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. In January 1997, the Hangzhou-born conductor became Music Director of the SSO, taking over from founding Music Director Choo Hoey.
Shui’s achievements over the years can be neatly captured in two comments from international reviewers. The American Record Guide wrote, “One cannot avoid comparing what Shui has achieved in Singapore with what George Szell did in Cleveland or Simon Rattle in Birmingham. He has turned a good regional orchestra into a world-class ensemble.” The London Spectator posed, “Could this be one of the great orchestras of the 21st century?” Under his leadership, the SSO has received invitations to prestigious festivals including the Dresden Music Festive, the Prague Spring International Festival, and the BBC Proms. During his tenure, the SSO has also commissioned over 60 new works by Singaporean composers, where Shui personally premiered close to 30 of them.
Shui’s farewell concerts for the Singapore audience featured a 90-minute performance of Gustav Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony. In a TV interview, he explained the choice of the concert programme:
“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.”
“The symphony is performed by many great orchestras and often on significant occasions. It is close to my heart, because it is truly the end of an era – for me as well as the orchestra. It also beckons at what’s next – which I’m convinced will be a fantastic future for the SSO.”
For this farewell performance, Shui performed with various choruses – in addition to the Singapore Symphony Chorus & Youth Choir – that have worked with the SSO during his tenure, including the Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Singapore, and the Hallelujah Chorus. (See full list of performing groups below)
At both concerts, Singapore Symphony Group Chairman Mr Goh Yew Lin expressed his gratitude to the Maestro:
“He brought to the SSO boundless energy, a keen ear, impeccable technique and a natural musicality. The standing ovations we received at major venues and festivals in recent European tours are testimony to what he and the SSO have been able to achieve together through his persistent focus on raising the levels of artistic excellence.
“Lan reshaped and strengthened the orchestra. He was demanding of the musicians, but was also their strongest champion behind the scenes. He has been a good friend to many. He is, I know, immensely proud of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and we in turn are very grateful to him for his artistry, his commitment and his friendship.”