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Singapore Symphony Orchestra goes big on Beethoven in new season

If in-person concerts are still not possible by the time the new season starts, the orchestra will look into livestreaming the concerts.

The Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) might have cancelled all its remaining live concerts for the current season because of the coronavirus pandemic, but it hopes to make a rousing return in July by honouring one of the world’s greatest composers.

The upcoming season will celebrate the 250th birth anniversary of German composer Ludwig van Beethoven – centred on the theme A New Era, which calls for audiences to reflect on change and hope.

It will also be the orchestra’s first season under chief conductor Hans Graf, whose tenure begins in the middle of this year.

If all goes according to plan, on July 2, the orchestra will open its 2020/2021 season with the world premiere of Flow, a commission by local composer Zechariah Goh.

The concert will also feature Beethoven’s Third Symphony or his Eroica Symphony, as well as Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto, performed by Tokyo-born violinist Karen Gomyo.

(Related: Asian Cultural Symphony Orchestra celebrates diversity in its performance)

On Nov 6 and 7, the SSO will play Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony featuring his iconic Ode To Joy, led by Japanese conductor Masaaki Suzuki.

The composer’s Fifth Symphony, among other works, will also be showcased in two concerts led by Estonia-born conductor Neeme Jarvi on Nov 13 and 14.

Polish pianist Krystian Zimerman will perform and conduct all five Beethoven piano concertos in a series titled Emperor of the Piano, while Seoul-born violinist Ye-Eun Choi will be the soloist for Beethoven’s Violin Concerto.

Other guest artists in the season include German soprano Diana Damrau, Dutch violinist Janine Jansen, Russian trumpeter Sergei Nakariakov, Russian conductor Vasily Petrenko and Chinese-American conductor Xian Zhang.

The SSO will perform a total of six Beethoven symphonies in the season.

(Related: Austrian maestro Hans Graf to be appointed Singapore Symphony Orchestra’s new chief conductor)

Besides Beethoven’s masterpieces, the new season will feature the works of Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. The orchestra will play his seven symphonies in concerts in July and next February .

Singapore Symphony Group chief executive officer Chng Hak-Peng said in a video conference on Wednesday (April 15): “Beethoven is considered an innovator of the period he lived in. Even when you listen to his music today, much of it feels romantic and modern.”

Meanwhile, Sibelius introduced the idea of countries having music they can identify with, he added.

“We want to reintroduce these composers and we believe audiences today can resonate with the sound they created in their works.”

The new season also includes concerts of film music.

The orchestra will play live music to accompany screenings of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 masterpiece, Psycho, in its SSO Pops concerts on Aug 6 and 7.

It will also play, on Oct 1, the music of Hans Zimmer, who composed works for films such as science-fiction flick Inception (2010) and animated film The Lion King (1994).

Among the SSO’s Concerts for Children series are two performances titled Symphonic Sorcery: The Music Of Harry Potter, scheduled on Sept 5.

If all goes well, ticket sales for the various concerts open in May.

Mr Chng is hopeful the line-up will give audiences something to look forward to after the circuit breaker measures are lifted.

If in-person concerts are still not possible by the time the new season starts, the orchestra will look into livestreaming the concerts, he said.

This article was originally published in The Straits Times.

(Related: SSO welcomes new chief conductor, Hans Graf)