In recent weeks there's been a lot of activity in the chat rooms, on Facebook and on the MPO's own website concerning the orchestra's history and its future. Orchestras are, by the very nature of things, organic, and growth often means changes which, at the time, seem unwelcome and perplexing to those most closely involved. I'm as guilty as anyone to opposing change when I don't see the purpose of it, but I've learnt to sit back and wait before coming to a decision one way or the other. That said, I don't like to see the true facts obscured by those who, in the heat of the moment, would happily re-write history, and I have been concerned that some versions of the MPO history have had some key-figures air-brushed out of them in order to minimise the effect of on-going changes to personnel and policy.
I am and remain the most ardent supporter the MPO has, and I am also one of the few people who has been involved in it since its very beginnings. I've kept a close record of all that has happened since 1997 and, one day, will tidy it up and publish it. But, in the meantime, just to reassure those who may be worried that the history as published on the official website and elsewhere has either been deleted or altered, I have unearthed the potted history I produced, in cooperation with the MPO Management, for inclusion in this season's calendar. This history is still in the public domain and can be found in many MPO publications, but in case you missed it, here is how things stood in October 2010.
The Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) gave its inaugural performance under founding Music Director Kees Bakels at Dewan Filharmonik PETRONAS (DFP),
, on 17 August 1998. Over the past twelve seasons it has consistently impressed and inspired audiences. Kuala Lumpur
The initial search in 1997 involved a worldwide audition tour resulting in a 105-member symphony orchestra made up of outstanding musicians from 25 nations - a remarkable example of harmony among different cultures and nationalities.
A host of internationally-acclaimed musicians has worked with the MPO, including Lorin Maazel, Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, Mstislav Rostropovich, Jiři Bélohlávek, Sir Neville Marriner, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Vadim Repin, Joshua Bell, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Truls Mørk and Simon Preston, many of whom have praised the MPO for its musical qualities and vitality.
Building on the pioneering work of his illustrious predecessors - Matthias Bamert, who held the post of Principal Conductor for three seasons, and Kees Bakels, who served as Music Director for seven - MPO Music Director, Claus Peter Flor, continues to expand the orchestra's enviable reputation for musical excellence by presenting the very best in orchestral music to Malaysian audiences. During the 10/11 season, the MPO performs over 100 concerts presenting a varied programme of orchestral music drawn from over four centuries, as well as chamber, contemporary and specially commissioned new music. It also encourages collaborations with local artists; last season opening with a sell-out Gala Concert featuring Malaysian piano prodigy Tengku Ahmad Irfan Tengku Ahmad Shahrizal performing alongside the MPO and Maestro Flor.
The MPO’s mission is to nurture an interest in classical music in Malaysia, and to nurture home-grown talent. The MPO’s Education and Outreach Programme - ENCOUNTER, reaches beyond the concert platform to develop musical awareness, appreciation and skills through dedicated activities which include instrumental lessons, workshops and schools’ concerts. ENCOUNTER has also arranged memorable events in such diverse venues as orphanages, hospitals, rehabilitation centres and community centres, thereby enriching the lives of those less fortunate members of Malaysian society.
Encouraging and promoting new composers is also very much at the heart of the MPO's work and to this end the MPO Forum has been created. Last season, ENCOUNTER organised two concerts in conjunction with the MPO Forumplus presenting works from six local composers. Seeking to put
on the new music map, the MPO International Composers’ Award was initiated in November 2004 with interest shown from composers in over 40 countries. Malaysia
The most recent manifestation of this commitment to furthering musical interest in the nation was the creation of the Malaysian Philharmonic Youth Orchestra (MPYO), coached by the MPO players and directed by MPO Associate Conductor Kevin Field. The MPYO gave its inaugural concert at DFP on 25 August 2007 and followed this with a highly-successful tour of several cities in Peninsular Malaysia. In December 2008 the MPYO undertook a highly-successful tour of Sabah and Sarawak, and in December 2009 visited Singapore.
Touring has become an important ingredient in raising the MPO’s international profile. It has regularly visited the major cities of Malaysia as well as Singapore, while extended international tours have included Japan and Korea (November 2001), Australia (October 2004), China (September 2006), Taiwan (October 2007) and Japan (September 2009).
In its relatively brief existence the MPO has established itself as a respected recording orchestra. Thirteen CDs have so far been released, including eleven internationally for the Vox, BIS and
Naxos labels. Last season the MPO collaborated for the first time with a local film studio - KRU Studios - to produce the soundtrack for movie ‘Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa’.