(cover photo: The Philharmonic Winds with Luis Serrano Alarcon / credits: Clive Choo)
In celebration of the wind orchestra’s 15th anniversary, The Philharmonic Winds brought to life the World Premiere of Spanish composer Luis Serrano Alarcon‘s masterpiece – Marco Polo Trilogy on 21 June at the Esplanade.
Complemented with multi-cultural sounds from the Middle East, China and India, the colourful scoring in the work expanded the wind orchestra’s capability to fuse the non-western ethnic instruments with its classical sound palette.
It took almost ten years for Luis to write a trilogy like this, and for him to attain the unique ideas and sounds for each instrument required long and hard research.
“Thanks to the Internet, nowadays it is very much easier to access such information – I made almost all my research this way. For the second movement, I had the chance to know the Chinese instruments during my first visit to Singapore, which was very useful to me. Regarding the technique and tuning of each instrument, especially in the first movement, I had to first try and learn the instruments myself in order to teach them to the musicians who played the standard instruments in the band.”
Sharing the stage were several Singapore instrumentalists, including Irfan Rais on the Tar/Tampura, Han Lei on the Guanzi, Govin Tan on the Tabla, Krsna Tan on the Sitar, musicians from the the Dingyi Music Company and the Vocal Associates Festival Chorus led by celebrated choral director Khor Ai Ming.
The wind orchestra was also conducted by the resident conductor, Dr Leonard Tan, the principal guest conductor, Timothy Reynish, and the composer himself across the three movements.
“It is almost impossible to state how important the Philharmonic Winds has become in my musical life in the past decade. The players have become close friends in a variety of great performances of significant music, building up to the extraordinary experience of conducting the second of the Marco Polo Trilogy, with the additional pleasure of working with dizi, erhu, suonas and sheng, but also encountering a rich panoply of chinese percussion and the Vocal Associates Festival Chorus,” said Tim.
“It is a piece that I have loved ever since I heard it four years ago conducted immaculately by Leonard Tan, and it has been a rare privilege to take over his performance and to develop it further. Perhaps the greatest advantage of working in Singapore has been to be able to programme music by close friends, some of which I have commissioned, Adam Gorb, Kenneth Hesketh, Christopher Marshall, Scott McAllister, and of course the chance to introduce to South East Asia the music and artistry of Luis Serrano Alarcon, culminating in this triumphant journey. What an experience for us all!” he continued.
When asked post-concert about the wind orchestra’s performance, Luis mentioned that it was the most important musical event of his life.
“To see the work I had put in from 2006 to 2013 in this ambitious project eventually played as a most unique performance was very emotional for me. In this sense, I would like to thank Philharmonic Winds for the tremendous effort and generosity for making this dream come true.”
Marco Polo: The Silk Road
i. Genoa, 1298
ii. The Caravan of the Merchants
iii. The Old Man of the Mountain
v. Arrival in Cambaluc
Marco Polo: The Cathay Years
i. Summer in Chandu
iii. The Two Towers of Men
iv. Tsagaan Sar
Marco Polo: The Book of India
ii. The Sacred Footprint
iii. Raga Gujari Todi
iv. Venice, 1295
A contributing editor at TBP.