Jakarta Orchestra Reaches Out to New Fans of Classical Music
Michael Victor Sianipar
Michael Victor SianiparAfter decades under the control of the government of the capital city, the Jakarta Philharmonic Orchestra has this year taken the bold step of going private. Under the leadership of director Estu Susanto, the Jakarta institution has changed its name (from the Jakarta Symphony Orchestra) and adopted a more professional approach .
Now it is seeking to find a whole new audience for classical music, and along the way break down some tired, old stereotypes about the genre.
The new-look orchestra will be on display this Saturday night at its gala concert at the Aula Simfonia concert hall in Central Jakarta. Titled “The Notes of Eternity,” the concert features maestro Yudianto Hinupurwadi as conductor, sopranos Aning Katamsi and Binu D. Sukaman , and Iskandar Widjaja-Hadar as the solo violinist for the final concerto.
The orchestra is Jakarta’s oldest, dating from its establishment under Governor Ali Sadikin (1966-1977) . Under Ali’s administration, classical music flourished in the capital. It was again reinvigorated under Governor Surjadi Soedirdja (1992-1997) , but since then has faded into the background amid a proliferation of other genres and a lack of funding.
As part of this year’s full privatization, Estu is trying to change the image of the city institution. “We took over the ownership of the orchestra because we had the vision to turn the Jakarta Philharmonic Orchestra into one of Jakarta’s most notable assets,” Estu said. “Through more professional management by the private sector, we hope to provide better opportunities for classical musicians in Indonesia .”
Estu admitted that the existing market for classical music in Indonesia was small, but said his ambition was to create demand by introducing a new business and marketing model. “The problem is that there are many misconceptions about classical music, and we want to break them systematically,” he said.
One common perception is that classical music is reserved for the upper-middle class and the elderly, which Estu says is a falsehood that he wishes to dispel. “We hope that [Saturday’s] concert will be a significant start, not just for JPO, but for the development of classical music in Indonesia,” he said.
Estu argued that classical music possessed a certain appeal that many Indonesians had failed to appreciate.
He said classical music could help listeners navigate the breadth of their “emotional spectrum.”
“Our culture and entertainment tends to portray the extremes of emotional expressions, such as anger, sadness and joyfulness. We see really nice people and really terrible ones in the sinetron [soap operas], but not so many characters that represent the middle ground,” Estu said. “Classical music, in contrast, enables the audience to hear and feel other subtle forms of emotion best conveyed through musical expression.”
He added that classical music was different to contemporary genres such as pop and jazz because it relied solely on the ability of acoustics to produce sounds without the assistance of modern sound systems. “It is this purity of musical harmony that fosters some kind of addiction,” Estu said.
Neneng Rahardja, the head of Philharmonic Society Foundation (YPS), said the orchestra’s vision was to present classical music that could reach all segments of society.
She said the JPO would explore other avenues to promote classical music appreciation in the country, including reaching out to higher education institutions and helping to establish local orchestra groups.
Another strategy is to present a hip and trendy image. In this weekend’s concert, JPO has invited Iskandar as a guest musician.
Iskandar, a 25-year-old German-born Indonesian violinist, will perform Johannes Brahms’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D major, Opus 77. With his Vienna-manufactured 1793 F. Geissenhof violin, Iskandar has performed at acclaimed concert halls around the world, including the Konzerthaus Berlin in Germany, the Tel Aviv Opera House in Israel and the Opera di Brescia in Italy.
The young icon of classical music said he hoped that in playing the final concerto at Saturday’s concert, he would be able to communicate the dynamic emotions inherent in the music to the Jakarta audience.
When asked about how he would know if that message was successfully conveyed, Iskandar said he had his own way of knowing if the music had affected the audience.
“It’s not about how much applause I get, but the vibrations I can feel in the audience. I will know if the message has been delivered by asking myself whether I have been moved by the song,” he said.
“If I feel moved myself, then I will know that I have moved others as well.”