Preview: The Unknown Woman by Wayfarer Sinfonietta

This September, a new chamber orchestra makes its debut in Singapore. Made of current students, faculty, and alumni of the Yong Siew Toh conservatory of music, Wayfarer Sinfonietta was formed in 2021 to present works from the repertoire in chamber arrangements, as a way of responding to the current climate which prevents the coming together of large orchestral forces.

“The pandemic has really put a damper in presenting many of the large-scale orchestral works that we expect of orchestras, but it also presents an opportunity for us to look at the many existing chamber versions of work that exist out there that both meet the various safe management requirements, while also providing opportunities for musicians to continue to make music together,” says Founder and Music Director Lien Boon Hua. “In addition, as with this programme, it has given us the opportunity to commission new arrangements by local composers. We hope that this will be the first in a series of concerts that brings both familiar and more obscure repertoire to our audiences so that they can continue to experience live music.”

One of the key considerations of the Wayfarer Sinfonietta is creating strong narratives in the concert programme so that the audience is taken on a journey rather than being passive consumers of music. “One of the questions we asked ourselves in putting this programme together was how could we engage audiences more critically with contemporary ideas even as we work with music that is more than a century old,” says producer Shridar Mani. “While looking through the various works we were considering it became clear to us that we wanted to explore the story of Alma Mahler who lived in the shadow of a number of the early 20th century’s greatest composers and yet was largely seen as an object of desire and a muse by them”.

One woman and the four men whose lives revolved around her. A muse, an artist, a wife, a mother, a lover and a patron, Alma Mahler was a central figure in the musical zeitgeist of Vienna in the early 20th century whose influence continued even after her immigration to America. But beyond the tropes imposed on her by the men around her, was a woman whose fierce independence and talent were ahead of her time.

This concert explores both the inner world of Alma and the external world of the male composers whose life and works she was central including works by Gustav Mahler, Alma Mahler, Alexander von Zemlinsky, Erich Korngold and Ferruccio Busoni, performed by soprano Felicia Teo Kaixin, baritone Martin Ng, the Wayfarer Sinfonietta led by Lien Boon Hua, with direction and dramaturgy by Tang Xinxin and Noah Diggs, and new arrangements by Jonathan Shin.

The Unknown Woman plays on 26th September 2021 at Victoria Concert Hall. Tickets available from SISTIC

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