Continued from Singapore Sojourn part 1.
During my time in Singapore last summer I was lucky enough to play the largest pipe organ in the island-nation. Opened in 2002, “Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay” is a premier arts complex in a prime location on the north side of Singapore city’s Marina Bay. The architecture is uncompromisingly modern, and the exteriors of the two main auditoria – the concert hall and the theatre – have been likened to a pair of the durian fruit which is common to south-east Asia.
The concert hall features state-of-the-art moveable acoustic panels which can be programmed to change position to optimise the acoustic according to the nature of the concert, e.g. symphonic, chamber, etc. The auditorium is crowned by a three-manual Klais organ built in 2002, having 61 stops spread over Great, Swell, and Solo, with a floating Bombarde division. The tonal scheme is rather eclectic, but certainly to me seems to have a French accent (specification here).
As in many other modern concert halls around the world, such as Birmingham’s Symphony Hall and Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie, the en-fenêtre mechanical terraced console is supplemented by a second mobile console available (when required) on the auditorium floor. This is seen in an demonstration of the instrument below.
This is certainly an exciting instrument, having very direct speech into the auditorium from its elevated position. In the time available to me I experimented with registering a range of short pieces, from Bach to Thalben-Ball via Rheinberger and Duruflé, and found a palette for French repertoire to come most naturally – and, perhaps, to be the most musically satisfying. However, the organ’s power and versatility may be seen in a performance of Howells’s Paean below.
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