Monday 4 June 2001 – Singapore
Spent the day doing nothing in particular – wandered along Orchard Road, then went down to Suntec City to the Singapore International Convention Centre. There was a major book fair advertised, which I thought would be interesting. However it turned out to be mostly Chinese language publishing, so not much for me there. There was another associated exhibition of ‘Gifts and Collectibles’ – which turned out to be a catch-all phrase for all manner of shoddy goods, from herbal remedies, toys and luggage to glasses, prints and tatty sculptures.
Went to the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra’s concert at the Victoria Concert Hall. What a revelation! They performed a number of works that I wasn’t overly familiar with, but the detail in their phrasing and the internal balanced they achieved (apparently without even a balance rehearsal in the hall) were astonishing. I had chills running up and down my spine and was gripping the edge of my seat at a number of points.
They even played an encore – something that I don’t think the SSO does at all frequently – Verdi’s The Force of Destiny Overture. Although the TSO has played this on several occasions in the past few years, I heard details tonight that I’d not heard previously. The concert, of course, drew a large crowd and felt like a real concert, an occasion.
The ushers were wearing dinner suits – they only wear shirt sleeves, not even a tie, for SSO concerts. I remarked on this to Jenny Ting from the SSO – her response was ‘but of course – this is a special occasion’. This was, I thought, symptomatic. Also finally met up with Robert Casteels at the concert, and afterwards went downstairs and introduced myself to the MPO’s General Manager, Mr Stephen Smith, a Canadian, who seemed a bit bemused, but was happy to permit me to contact him about coming to KL.
Met up with Anita Caviezel after the concert. We wandered over to the Fullerton Pier, on Marina Bay, for some of the most expensive drinks I’ve ever bought! $22 for a pint of Heineken, and $12 for a fruit and rum concoction that Anita preferred. Still, we had a good chat and got through two rounds.