Singapore's first classical music festival, the inaugural Singapore International Festival of Music celebrates Singapore’s 50th jubilee and showcases young Singapore musicians. Themed War & Peace, the Festival will feature six main concerts commemorating the world’s great wars, a reminder that even hardship can bring forth great art. Similarly, moments of peace also led to fine music that built the foundations for more to come. With Singapore musicians as the pillars of the Festival, this homecoming series seeks to unite the best of Singapore’s talents.

War & Peace

26 September 2015 | 7.30 pm | The Chamber

Mozart: Violin Concerto no. 5 [29 minutes]

Stravinsky: Concerto in E-flat “Dumbarton Oaks” [12 minutes]

Britten: Sinfonietta, op.1 [15 minutes]

War & Peace will open the Festival, featuring a chamber orchestra comprising Singapore’s top talents. Kicking off the Festival is the nation’s poster-boy for classical music and co-Artistic Director of the Festival, Loh Jun Hong. He will dazzle with Mozart’s Violin Concerto no. 5, whose third movement contains a section of Turkish Music; the composer’s nod to the historic ‘Battle of Vienna’ when a horde of Ottoman Turks besieged the city.

The Concerto in E-flat “Dumbarton Oaks” for chamber orchestra was the last work Stravinsky completed in Europe from 1937-38, before he left for the United States in order to escape impending war in Europe. It is one of his most renowned neoclassical compositions. “Dumbarton Oaks” is a difficult work, which will highlight the virtuosity of our young musicians.

In 1932, as the young Benjamin Britten sat down to compose his first mature work; the Sinfonietta, op.1, elsewhere, the stage was being set in Germany which would jeopardise world peace. Hitler’s nomination as Chancellor of Germany was to become a turning point in history that would change the world later. 

Marlon Chen, conductor
Loh Jun Hong, violin
The Singapore International Festival of Music Soloists 


2 October 2015 | 7.30 pm | The Chamber

Haydn: String Quartet in C Major Op. 76, No. 3 “Emperor” [27 mins]

Beethoven: Twelve Variations for cello & piano in G major on Handel’s “See, the Conqu’ring Hero comes,” Woo 45 [11 mins]

Schubert: Piano Quintet in A major, D. 667 “Trout” [38 minutes]

An evening of Viennese classics will shine the spotlight on famous chamber works written in years of intervening peace but with impending war looming in the background. Haydn’s “Emperor” Quartet draws its nickname from the melody which forms the foundation of the second movement of the work, composed specifically for the Austrian monarchy and thus known as the “Emperor’s Hymn”. This same melody is known to modern listeners for its use in the German national anthem, the Deutschlandlied.

Beethoven’s variations on a theme from Handel’s Oratorio, Judas Maccabeus, was dedicated to the Prussian monarch King Friedrich Wilhelm who was a keen amateur cellist. Under his reign, Prussia was weakened internally and externally while Napoleon Bonaparte steadily gained military might through a quick succession of military battles and the French Revolutionary Wars were in full swing. Schubert’s “Trout” Quintet was composed in 1819, a generally peaceful year in his homeland, Vienna. The “Trout” Quintet gives us Schubert at his most irresistible: a veritable fountain of wonderful tunes, rippling, dancing rhythms, and amazing surprises.

Abigail Sin, piano
Andris Koh, cello
Chenna Lu, piano
Damien Kee, double bass
Jonathan Lee, viola
Leo Phillips, violin
Lim Chun, viola
Seah Huan Yuh, violin


 3 October 2015 | 3.30 pm | The Gallery

Ravel: Introduction and Allegro for Harp, Flute, Clarinet and String Quartet [11 mins]

Debussy: Sonata for Flute, Viola & Harp [18 mins]

Messiaen: Quartet for the “End of Time” [50 mins]

Paris features key French works written during or around the time of the two World Wars.

Maurice Ravel wrote his Introduction and Allegro in 1905, a peaceful time in France. This piece also showcases the composer at his strongest. It is his only chamber work written before the onset of World War I and differs greatly in style from his later works.

Debussy lived to see the horrors of the first World War; but his Sonatafor Flute, Viola and Harp, written in 1915, is imbued with the elegance of the French baroque. In 1914, the outbreak of war reduced Claude Debussy to almost complete silence, until, in Debussy’s own words, he managed to “rediscover music” in the summer of 1915, reaping a rich harvest of works including this Sonata. It was to be almost Debussy’s last work before he was troubled by the onset of his last illness.

Messiaen wrote his Quartet for the End of Time while when he was a prisoner in the German concentration camp of Görlitz. He was 31 years old when France entered World War II. Massiaen was captured and imprisoned by the German army in June 1940. The Quartet premiered at the camp, outdoors and in the rain, on 15 January 1941. A kind German guard even helped to free the musicians after the performance by forging papers with a stamp made from a potato.

Abigail Sin, piano
Andris Koh, cello
Charity Kiew, harp
Cho Hang-oh, cello
Colin Tan, clarinet
Goh Tiong Eng, flute
Lee Yun Chai, harp
Leo Phillips, violin
Lim Chun, viola
Liuyi Retallick, violin
Seah Huan Yuh, violin
Vincent Goh, clarinet


7 October 2015 | 7.30 pm | The Gallery

Phoon Yew Tien: “Separation of the Newly Wed” for Soprano, Oboe, Erhu & Pipa [12 mins]

Toru Takemitsu: “Rain Spell” for Flute, Clarinet, Harp, Vibraphone and Piano [9 mins]

Tan Chan Boon: Horn Sonata [12 mins]

Chong Kee Yong: String Quartet “Yellow Dust” [11 mins]

Leong Yoon Pin: Three Choral Works “Dragon Dance”, “Nightmare” and “Bengawan Solo” [20 mins]

The Japanese occupation of Singapore in World War II took place from 1942 to 1945 following the fall of the British colony on 15 February 1942. The occupation was to become a major turning point in the histories of several nations, including Japan, Britain, and the then-colonial state of Singapore. 

Singapore was renamed Syonan-to, translated to Light of the South. Japan’s rule is represented by one of its greatest composer, Toru Takemitsu, whose masterpiece, “Rain Spell”, expresses his fascination with water, symbolised by rain and the random flow of water.  “Rain Spell” is filled with sounds emulating water and insects, putting listeners under a deep spell woven by the genius of its composer.

Three senior Singaporean composers form the core of this programme. Phoon Yew Tien’s “Separation of the Newly Wed” is based on a poem by a Tang-Dynasty poet. This piece, through the eyes of a young bride, laments about her husband’s departure to battle immediately after their wedding. Tan Chan Boon’s lyrical Horn Sonata notes the composer’s penchant for broad strokes and lush harmonies even in smaller-scale works. Singapore’s doyen of composers, the late Leong Yoon Pin, will be represented by three characteristic pieces for mixed chorus – “Dragon Dance”, “Nightmare”, and “Bengawan Solo”.

This is complimented by the world premiere of a new composition by Malaysia’s premier composer, Chong Kee Yong, whose String Quartet will be unveiled.

Adrian Wee Kuan Chieh, erhu
Albert Tay, conductor
Alexander Oon, horn
Ashley Chua, soprano
Audi Goh, oboe
Chan Si Han, cello
Chenna Lu, piano
Cheryl Lim, flute
Chua Yew Kok, pipa
Iskandar Rashid, vibraphone
Jonathan Lee, viola
Lee Yun Chai, harp
Liu Yi Retallick, violin
Seah Huan Yuh, violin
Vincent Goh, clarinet

Music in the Shadow of War

9 October 2015 | 7.30 pm | The Chamber

Schumann: Fantasiestücke, op.73 for cello and piano [10 mins]

Ravel: Piano Trio [27 mins]

Shostakovich: Piano Trio no. 2 [25 mins]

Robert Schumann was forced to take flight with his children and pregnant wife across a field in the middle of the night to escape the revolutionary troops in Dresden in 1849. During this time of dread, he created a series of chamber works that are some of the most peaceful and idyllic music he ever composed. Amongst them is the Fantasiestücke for cello and piano. 

Ravel raced to finish his Piano Trio before leaving to serve at the frontline. Despite its hurried circumstance, the piece is sculpted, polished, and rings of Ravel’s characteristically contained beauty.

Shostakovich’s dark, sombre but powerful Piano Trio no.2 was written during World War II. The music reflects the horrific and devastating time when he wrote this piece, as well as the intense personal quality of the loss for him of his closest and dearest friend, Ivan Sollertinsky. This piece resonates tragedy that is thinly papered over with cheer. The irony of the music is that it masks yet expresses profound sadness, beauty and despair together.  

Chenna Lu, piano
Lee Shi Mei, violin
Lim Yan, piano
Lin Juan, cello
Siew Yili, violin
Tapalin Charoensook, cello


10 October 2015 | 7.30 pm | Play Den

Grigori Frid: The Diary of Anne Frank [60 mins]

Chamber Opera for soprano and 9 instruments

Based on The Diary of Anne Frank, this chamber opera in 21 scenes was composed in 1968 by Russian-German composer, Grigory Frid. Anne Frank, then aged 13, hid with her family in a house in Amsterdam from July 1942 until their arrest in August 1944. She chronicled the people she saw as well as her moods and emotions in her diary. She also wrote of her joy at receiving a birthday gift, her awakening attraction for a family friend as well as her fear and loneliness while in hiding. The Diary of Anne Frank by Frid is an Asian premiere at the Singapore International Festival of Music.

Akiko Otao, soprano
Aw Yong Tian, bassoon
Brian Sim, doublebass
Cho Hang-Oh, cello
Colin Tan, clarinet
Dr. Cheryl Lim, flute/piccolo
Iskandar Rashid, percussion
Kenneth Lun, trumpet
Liu Yi Retallick, violin
Marlon Chen, conductor
Nicholas Loh, piano/celesta