A Night at the MPO

Last night tp and went to a concert of the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra with some friends.  We are somewhat embarrassed to admit that this was the first time we’ve been, but we’re already planning on going back.  Our friends invited us, saying that the concert involved a guitarist, and we got excited because we’d been looking forward to attending this guitar concert we had seen advertised.  It turns out the one we wanted is next weekend, and the one last night was a program of modern works, including a guitar concerto.  The pieces were actually pretty cool- all were by fairly young Australian composers.  It was good to hear, we don’t get the works of Australians in the US too much.  One of the composers was there and talked about his symphony before the group performed it, so that was kind of interesting.  It was supposed to be programtic, about modern life, and I’m not sure that any of us heard what he was trying to portray, but it had some cool moments nonetheless.

The orchestra is quite good (although it’s a little hard to tell with modern music!)  and I look forward to seeing them do some more traditional repetoire next week.  The really cool part was getting to see their concert hall, renowned as one of the world’s best.  The group is only 7 years old, and their hall is built in the mega-complex at the base of the Petronas Towers.  Oh yeah, and the orchestra is funded by Petronas too.  Nothing like oil money to buy an acoustically amazing hall.  It’s not overly big, which is nice.  In the States, most orchestras play in these cavernous barns which are rarely filled more than a third because they just can’t sell enough tickets.  This place is only about 30 rows deep, but is quite tall with four levels of seats reaching all the way around over the stage.  It’s absolutely gorgeous, except for the lines of tiny green lights on the ceiling which remind me of a string of Christmas lights.  I’m not sure whose idea those were, but they’re the only eyesore.  And the sound is truly incredible.  Right before the group started playing, there was deafening silence- no airplane, ambulance, truck, car, air conditioner, train, or other type of noise at all.  I felt bad shifting in my chair or moving at all during the performance because every little rustle was magnified because the hall was so live.

We didn’t know this before we went, but it turns out that they  have a jacket requirement for men.  So tp was just in a collared shirt and had to get a loaner.  They had a whole bunch of black blazers and apologized profusely, saying they only had extra larges left.  This being Malaysia, of course, the extra large barely fit him.  I feel bad for all of those tall Westerners that come to take in a performance- I sure hope they have their own jackets.