For almost forty years the Singapore Symphony Orchestra has been a sure source of good news about classical music. The world-class ensemble, hailed by the Guardian for its ‘orchestral bravado’, plays to packed houses at home under the baton of their Music Director Lan Shui, and has earned an enviable reputation overseas through its critically acclaimed tours and extensive discography. The Singapore Symphony Orchestra’s international profile is set to rise with the appointment of Andrew Litton as its Principal Guest Conductor. The American artist’s new role is underpinned by his wholehearted enthusiasm for the orchestra and the work they have already done together. Litton launches his tenure in September 2017 and will return to Singapore in subsequent years to work on up to four projects per season.
“I am delighted to accept this position with such a fine group of musicians,” comments Andrew Litton. “I can’t wait to start work with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. We will begin on 8 September with Bartók’s First Piano Concerto, with Jean-Efflam Bavouzet as soloist, and Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony. I’ll play-direct from the piano in Beethoven’s Triple Concerto for our next concert on 10 November, performing together with the orchestra’s amazing concert master and principal cello, and conduct Copland’s Third Symphony. We’ll be looking at American repertoire in future seasons and there are so many other things that I want to perform with these excellent players.”
Andrew Litton made his Singapore Symphony debut in September 2013 with a programme crowned by Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony. “Something extra special happened during our first week together,” he recalls. “It’s not so common to connect with players in this way: when it happens, you take note. I felt really welcomed and saw that everyone gave themselves fully to the project.” The relationship between conductor and orchestra deepened last year when they explored everything from symphonies by Prokofiev and Rachmaninov to the music of Copland and Rouse. “It was a thrill to be invited back to conduct two programmes last October, especially when the experience proved to be even better than before. Being offered a position with the orchestra was an uplifting confirmation of what I’d been feeling right from our first meeting. I eagerly look forward to my first concerts as Principal Guest Conductor, to continuing the great work of my predecessor Okko Kamu who held the position for over twenty years, and to working with the wonderful orchestra and its impressive management.”
The Singapore Symphony Orchestra’s Chief Executive Officer, Chng Hak-Peng, notes how Litton’s appointment arose naturally from his close rapport with the orchestra’s players. “Our musicians have built a strong relationship with him in a short time,” he comments. “They have found his music-making to be inspiring and invigorating, and they are looking forward to working with him in his new capacity. Part of the magic is in Andrew’s personality and ability to draw out the best of individual players.”
Andrew Litton’s Singapore schedule will complement his critically acclaimed work as Music Director of New York City Ballet, a post he has held since September 2015. “This new appointment arrives at a time when my other principal guest conductorship with the Colorado Symphony is nearing its close. There’s a good news story to tell about the Singapore Symphony, which is going from strength to strength. The orchestra has created a very positive atmosphere, which includes its close ties to the excellent Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music and the wider community in Singapore. It’s thrilling to see that happening and with such generous support from the Singapore government.”
By neat coincidence, both Litton and the Singapore Symphony Orchestra record for BIS Records. The Swedish label is likely to extend its catalogue by documenting their work together. “I look forward to working with the orchestra’s next Music Director, who is yet to be appointed, to find new ways of bringing the orchestra forward and developing its outreach and education programmes. This is a wonderful opportunity for me to be involved with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra at a truly exciting time in its history.”
Chng Hak-Peng says the Singapore Symphony Orchestra is eager to develop special programmes and innovative projects in partnership with Andrew Litton. “He brings a deep passion for orchestral and chamber music to his new role, as well as a love for a wide range of repertoire both American and European,” he observes. “The orchestra sees this as a chance to continue the journey we have taken with all our major conductors, where each brings their unique expertise to explore different perspectives of music with our players. We are particularly thrilled to share with Maestro Litton the world of classical music in Asia, and our love for music by Asian and Singaporean composers.”