“Most prominent among Nordling’s talents is a knack for letting one hear just what is important. He attends to balances with unfailing effectiveness.”
- Peninsula Times Tribune
"Nordling conducts in a precise, particular fashion and that's how the Bay Chamber Symphony plays. He makes no exorbitant gestures. With a light beat, he elicits balanced, satisfying performances. For the Beethoven, it wan't about 45 people trying to sound like 90 but 45 making the Fourth Symphony sound as if it were the scale of ensemble Beethoven had in mind."
- San Francisco Chronicle
"All of the musicians performed expressively... Not only stimulating the ears, their offer of a beautiful tapestry of instrumental voices also spoke to the heart. Certainly wishing to make the most out of this opportunity, the audience was rapt throughout the whole performance... The energetic and expressive display by Robert Nordling in conducting the orchestra was a thrill to witness. Nordling’s arms moved about with such energy... his eyes opened wide, shining with enthusiasm."
- Bandung Pikiran Rakyat, Indonesia
“Nordling has a fine ear for balance and color and effortlessly draws a full, legato tone from the strings.”
- David Lockington, Music Director, Pasadena Symphony
“Nordling crowned his concert with a probing, hauntingly beautiful performance of Bartok’s “Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste.”
- Byron Belt - Syndicated Columnist
“I found Mr. Nordling an excellent musician and conductor with a good command of the music and a well-developed sense of working with the orchestral ensemble. He has a future in the music world.”
- Michael Tilson Thomas
"There was a fresh and airy quality and a certain elegance, everything poised and dance-like, never driven, but rather more heavily made and importantly symphonic. The bright tempos Beethoven specified but that are now traditionally slowed down for bigger orchestras and halls, worked for Nordling, to the advantage of the springier, implicitly livelier effect. This is so not because of his ensemble's size as such, but because Nordling knows what he's after and gets it. It's a question of getting all relationships and balances just right."
- Robert Commanday - Music Critic, San Francisco Chronicle
“The energetic and expressive display by Robert Nordling in conducting the orchestra was a thrill to witness. Keeping eye contact with all members of the orchestra…, Nordling’s arms moved about with such energy … For certain movements, especially throughout the uptempo sequences, his eyes opened wide, shining with enthusiasm.”
Bandung Pikiran Rakyat - Satira Yudatama
San Mateo Times - Joseph Valicenti
The Bay Chamber Symphony Orchestra presented an all-string program Sunday at the college of San Mateo.
Featuring works by Elgar, JS Bach, Grieg and concertmaster Joseph Edelberg, music director Robert Nordling kept the entire program in fine balance and created some wonderful effects.
From the opening measures of the first work, Elgar’s Introduction and allegro for Strings’ it was obvious that Nordling’ had his own highly personalized conception of the score in mind. This included an intense drive in the more impassioned sections and a singing lyric quality in the contrasted expressive ones.
Even though this is music that is highly accessible and even familiar sounding, Nordling kept his interpretation from sounding trite or condescending. He also affected a good balance between the quartet of strings that formed the concertato group and the rest of the orchestra.
Times Tribune – Michael Andrews
Nordling and his band of 40 continue to give Peninsula music clovers top-notch performances of small orchestra repertoire. They played the latest winner on Saturday evening.
Most prominent among Nordling's talents is a knack for letting one hear just what is important. He tends to balances with unfailing effectiveness. Schubert’s “Overture in the Italian Style” provides a case in point, with its reliance on woodwinds in various numbers and combinations to carry main ideas against an often busy background of strings.
Even more impressive in terms of clarity was the Bartok “Music for Strings Percussion and Celeste” in a genuine and rarely heard chamber rendition like the original. All lines of the great opening fugue could be followed readily.
San Francisco Chronicle – Marilyn Tucker
For those who thought that the last thing the Bay Area needed was another chamber orchestra, there exists in San Mateo the Bay chamber Symphony Orchestra, now in its second season and playing up a storm.
Advance reports had promised an orchestra of considerable worth. Still I was hardly prepared to be almost knocked out of my seat by the emphatic downbeat and lush string sound that followed in Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro for Strings and String Quartet. Nordling brought it to a dramatic, even vivid, pace, and the clarity of voices was outstanding.
San Francisco Chronicle - Robert Commanday
"Bay Chamber Symphony and Soloist Shine"
Fortunately, there's no indication of any mergers among the area's several chamber orchestras as some have advocated. The Bay chamber Symphony under Robert Nordling on Saturday at the College of Notre Dame, in Belmont, gave the most recent demonstration why conglomeration of forces would not be a salutary idea.
Nordling's orchestra serves its own Peninsula audience with select programs and soloists - the weekend's offering consisting of Ravel's "Le Tombeau de Couperin," Mozart's Piano Concerto in G, K. 453, with a fine young soloist, Christopher O'Riley, and Beethoven's Symphony No. 4. The performances were musical, stylish and tasteful, reflecting Nordling's qualities. It's the conductor who makes one orchestra different from another because their personnel, drawn from one pool of professional players, are to a noticeable extent, shared.
Nordling conducts in a precise, particular fashion and that's how the Bay Chamber Symphony plays. He makes no exorbitant gestures. With a light beat, he elicits balanced, satisfying performances. For the Beethoven, it wan't about 45 people trying to sound like 90 but 45 making the Fourth Symphony sound as if it were the scale of ensemble Beethoven had in mind.
There was a fresh and airy quality and a certain elegance, everything poised and dance-like, never driven, but rather more heavily made and importantly symphonic. The bright tempos Beethoven specified but that are now traditionally slowed down for bigger orchestras and halls, worked for Nordling, to the advantage of the springier, implicitly livelier effect. This is so not because of his ensemble's size as such, but because Nordling knows what he's after and gets it. It's a question of getting all relationships and balances just right in a scale of performance very different from the aural memory of the piece and of the Beethoven that he, the players and the listeners have carried around for years.
The chamber orchestra ensemble is naturally right for Ravel's "Le Tombeau de Couperin," which is not symphonic to begin with. The performance was refined, expressive in Ravel's elevated manner, affectionate and deft. Deborah Shidler conveyed the important oboe lead with grace.
There are sensitive touches, poetic hesitations and breaths waiting for Nordling to explore when more experience gives him confidence. The same was true of certain hardly definable nuances in the Mozart G major Concerto that are to be discovered by O'Riley as he grows in this work and with other Mozart.
Bandung Pikiran Rakyat - Satira Yudatama
"A Highly Motivated Performance"
Placement of musicians plays an important role in creating an optimal harmony of sounds coming out from all the different instruments in an orchestra. If applied continuously, a certain formation will be beneficial to the development of technical skills as well as hone the instinct among the orchestra members to understand each other more.
While many orchestras still experience a lot of changes as regards to their personnel, Bandung Philharmonic has come up with a fixed formation, including the Director of Music Robert Nordling, hailing from Chicago, USA.
Starting from the audition process, the personnel of Bandung Philharmonic has strived to exist among the classical music scene in Bandung, or even nationwide. This wish to create a sweet first impression was so strong that all the musicians performed with such motivation at the Inaugural Concert of the Bandung Philharmonic, at Padepokan Seni Mayang Sunda, Jalan Peta, Bandung, on Monday (18/1/2016).
All of the musicians performed expressively, at times they even closed their eyes. Not only stimulating the ears, their offer of a beautiful tapestry of instrumental voices also spoke to the heart. Certainly wishing to make the most out of this opportunity, the audience was rapt throughout the whole performance.
The musicians, relaxed though they seemed even since the beginning of the performance, were able to cautiously play with the emotion, channeling this determination but without trying too hard at it. Some of the personnel had had experiences performing in front of a big audience, but, as demonstrated by this excellent display of the Bandung Philharmonic, they certainly had prepared themselves well both technically and mentally.
Aside from performing with a full formation, Bandung Philharmonic also offered a variation in the form of two small groups, namely a quartet and a quintet, playing on stage without the conductor. The bond between the musicians was palpable as they often exchanged looks with each others, and used a heaving breath as a signal.
The energetic and expressive display by Robert Nordling in conducting the orchestra was a thrill to witness. Keeping eye contact with all members of the orchestra, which were arranged in a semicircle, Nordling’s arms moved about with such energy matched by his frequently bobbing head. For certain movements, especially throughout the uptempo sequences, his eyes opened wide, shining with enthusiasm.
Works by great composers in the history of music, such as Fantasia in F Minor, String Quartet Op. 18 No. 6, Enigma, Melati Suci, and Halo-halo Bandung, were played charmingly. For the works of overseas composers Nordling did not use any music sheet, showing his deep mastery of the compositions. And for the Indonesian compositions, he glanced at time at the music sheets but performed with such totality.
“Representing the diversity of identities present in the group, we intentionally brought a combination of the west and the east. We are here proving that diversity can be the source of great, beautiful things, for everyone,” said Nordling during a break between compositions.
He did not deny that differences in opinions or in thinking might lead to a friction that could trigger anger, or even enmity. However, that is not how differences should be resolved. Using the analogy of the harmony of sounds from all the instruments present in an orchestra, Nordling urged everyone to perceive all the differences they see as a richness to appreciate.
Joining the Bandung Philharmonic was a true honor and an important professional step for Nordling. He said that what he felt at that time was beyond the capacity of words to describe. His motivation to deliver his utmost was even strengthened by the response of the American public that had shown interest in this new endeavor that is the Bandung Philharmonic. “I received many many phone calls, and messages from social media from fellow musicians, also ordinary US citizens that were asking me about the activities and development of this group,” he added.
One of the founders of the Bandung Philharmonic, Airin Efferin, noted that all 27 members of the orchestra were selected by merit. They were musicians whom the judges decided to be most suitable to fill the roles. But these musicians, who had to participate in a blind audition, were not simply proficient technically, but also had considerable experience with respect to teamwork. “There were some musicians who were technically better at music than the ones we ended up selecting, but in the end the judges decided otherwise,” said Airin.
Four judges, namely Robert Nordling, Michael Hall (Educational Programs Director of Bandung Philharmonic), Eric Awuy, and Danny Ceri, handpicked the members from about 150 applicants from all around Indonesia. The audition took place on 13-15 January 2016. (Satira Yudatama/PR)
Now! Jakarta - John Paul
INTERVIEW WITH ROBERT NORDLING, MUSIC DIRECTOR OF THE BANDUNG PHILHARMONIC
Many, if not most music directors of Indonesian orchestras seem to begin by considering the public’s existing preferences in determining the orchestra’s musical direction. Instead, based on an observation of past and future concert programs, you seem to have begun with an ideal and expect the rest to follow. Why? How would you define the music direction of the Bandung Philharmonic?
A perceptive question! Bravo. Orchestras – and the conductors - must hold several issues in tension when selecting the repertoire of the concert programs. 1. We must address the ‘contextual’ issue – What is relevant to this particular audience? What will they enjoy and support? 2. The ‘calling’ of every orchestra – What ‘truth-telling’ place does music (and art) have in this place and in the world? How can music be both pleasant to listen to and an important and respected voice that speaks truth to culture – even sometimes a hard truth? 3. What should we play that will help this particular orchestra flourish and thrive and grow? And 4. How can we celebrate the musical legacy and history of the symphony orchestra? What great works of art have composers written that need to be maintained and celebrated across cultural lines? A tough set of questions, to be sure – but all of which we consider when choosing music for the Bandung Phil.
Starting something new may not be easy, but sustaining it can be even more challenging. How do you hope to sustain public interest in the orchestra beyond its novelty phase?
Starting something new is FAR from easy - just ask our Executive Director, Airin Efferin! But you raise an important issue we have been trying to address while getting the ensemble established. We work hard internally to constantly improve the orchestra– but we also work hard externally by introducing many of our audience to this body of artwork for the very first time. Hearing a live performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 ‘Eroica’ is not something that many of our audience had experienced prior to April 2016. It was an honor to introduce that work- and many that have followed - to these friends. My sincere hope is to find that balance of getting people excited about classical symphonic music – while also celebrating the great musical traditions of Indonesia. We try to strike a good balance – while keeping our mission clear.
The Indonesian diaspora of musicians is perhaps one of the country’s most untapped resources in music. As music director, have you any plans to include this talent pool in your roster of guest soloists?
Most certainly. In addition to having the orchestra made up of some 95% Indonesian players, we have several Indonesian soloists – living both at home and abroad - on the list for upcoming concerts. Another way we are consciously including the Indonesian musical voice is through commissioning new works. I am very proud to say that at every concert of the Bandung Phil we play a World Premiere of a new work by an Indonesian composer; at every concert! Singgih Sanjaya, Budi Ngurah, Marisa Hartanto, Fauzie Wiriadisastra, Arya Kitti are just some of the Indonesian composers who have written works for the Bandung Phil. We also just held our first Composer Competition for young Indonesian composers and will perform a new work called Suvenir Dari Minangkabau at our next concert in September.
Lastly, the Bandung Philharmonic has so far been a breath of fresh air in almost every aspect I can think of. Therefore, please allow me to hope that this new orchestra will not continue the tradition among other Indonesian orchestras of ignoring the guitar concerto repertoire.
Ha ha! Certainly not, John Paul! And terima kasih for the challenge! Vivaldi, Rodrigo, Villa Lobos, Piazzolla… here we come! So much great music to play… and so little time. Seriously, it is wonderful that people have their favorite music or composer or ensemble. We had some patrons very much interested recently in Strauss Waltzes – so we are playing ‘The Beautiful Blue Danube’ in September as part of an all dance music concert. There is great interest in Opera, so we are playing an Opera favorites concert next season. All this while trying to hold to those things I mentioned earlier – context, calling, excellence and history. I think the Bandung Phil – and our wonderful audience – is up to the challenge.
From Chicago to Bandung: A New Orchestra in Indonesia has Hyde Park Ties
Courtesy of Indonesia Kaya
By Hannah Edgar
Despite being nearly geographical antipodes on a globe, Chicago and Bandung share a musical connection through a fledgling symphony orchestra—and the musicians who founded it.
Born in Bandung, West Java’s capital, Airin Efferin has played the piano since she was six years old. She briefly moved to Chicago with her family between the ages of eight and 11 and spent her undergrad years at Calvin College in Grand Rapids. There, she took a conducting class with Robert Nordling, music director of the Baroque on Beaver Music Festival and Lake Forest Civic Orchestra.
“He was a very good teacher. Everyone liked him a lot, and he was a very inspirational person,” Efferin recalled in a phone interview.
After completing grad school in Texas, Efferin moved back to Bandung. When she gathered three musical friends over lunch to discuss the possibility of founding Bandung’s first symphony orchestra in 2015, the question of a conductor came up. She immediately thought of Nordling, now based in Chicago and living in Hyde Park.
“I needed somebody who was a good teacher and who would be able to work in a diverse, multicultural setting,” Efferin said. The admiration was mutual: Nordling remembers Efferin as one of Calvin College’s “highfliers” and an “ideas generator.”
“She called me up and said, ‘We’re starting the first professional orchestra in the history of Bandung,’” Nordling recalled. “‘Would you be interested in being our music director?’”
Nordling asked if he could bring violist Michael Hall—his friend and, coincidentally, neighbor in Hyde Park—onboard. Efferin agreed, and the Bandung Philharmonic was born. Efferin would helm the finances and management of the orchestra as its executive director, Nordling would lead the orchestra as its music director, and Hall would work with music programs in Bandung as its director of education. Additionally, Nordling and Hall act as co–artistic directors.
The friends Efferin met up with over lunch also became integral members of the organization: businessman and flutist Ronny Gunawan is the Philharmonic’s Financial Manager; violinist Sandra Kusuma is the Personnel Manager; and composer–conductor Fauzie Wiriadisastra is on the orchestra’s board.
The minds behind the Bandung Philharmonic: Director of Education Michael Hall, Founder and Executive Director Airin Efferin, and Music Director Robert Nordling. Hall and Nordling live in Hyde Park, and Efferin lived in Chicago as a child.
Now three seasons strong, the Bandung Philharmonic has become an established presence in Bandung’s cultural life. Musical circles in Southeast Asia and beyond are also beginning to take notice.
“People from Singapore and Thailand are…seeking more collaboration. A lot of [ambassadors] come from Jakarta, where all the embassies are, to see what’s happening. The Australian embassy, for example, said they’d love to have an Australian soloist or guest conductor. The U.S. ambassador came to the last concert and officiated,” Efferin said.
This Tuesday, the founders of the Bandung Philharmonic are trying to raise the same awareness of the ensemble stateside. St. Paul & the Redeemer in Kenwood will be the setting of the first-ever Bandung Philharmonic Foundation fundraiser in the U.S., featuring Hall and Efferin in recital. Nordling will host.
“The main purpose of the Bandung Bash is to introduce our friends around here to the Bandung Philharmonic: what it’s doing, what its mission is, what its cultural exchange and diversity is,” Nordling said.
When I met Hall and Nordling at their Dorchester Avenue apartment building last week, they were in good spirits, despite fending off jet lag. Both had just returned from closing out the end of the Bandung Philharmonic’s third concert season. Come September, they’ll make the familiar trip from Chicago to Bandung to kick off the fourth.
“They know us by name at the Cathay Pacific check-in at O’Hare,” Nordling joked.
With a population of about 2.5 million, Bandung is roughly the same size as Chicago and sometimes falls victim to the same “second city” complex. But Bandung’s vibrant musical community—especially its underground and indie scenes, which have attracted international attention—is a uniquely integral part of the city’s social fabric. The presence of several universities with music programs has created a huge population of classically trained musicians in Bandung who, until recently, had no ensemble to play in.
In January 2016, after nearly a year of fundraising, the Bandung Philharmonic held its first auditions. Some 150 musicians auditioned; 50 were accepted. Only three days after the audition, the orchestra gave its first concert in a headline-grabbing gala event attended by over 200 people.
The Bandung Philharmonic has since grown: Its ranks have increased, its repertoire has diversified, and its budget has doubled. Its audience also appears to be growing.
“People are purchasing tickets sooner, which seems to be a good pattern…. It means that people like it and want to come back,” Efferin observed.
But the Bandung Philharmonic’s mission of being an Indonesian ensemble—in all the multitudes that designation implies—remains constant. The overwhelming majority of its musicians and donor base are Indonesian, representing a diverse array of faith practices and ethnicities; Nordling rehearses in Indonesian; and the Philharmonic’s programs always include at least one piece by an Indonesian composer. Additionally, its Young Composer and Conducting Fellowship programs offer support to Indonesian musicians in the early stages of their career. Just one non-Indonesian composer has written for the Bandung Philharmonic: the Chicago-based Stacy Garrop. Her viola concerto Krakatoa was premiered by Hall and the Bandung Philharmonic in January.
“We want first and foremost to have this outlet for Indonesian creativity. We don’t want to create a fast track for American [composers],” Hall said.
The Bandung Philharmonic’s founders also view the ensemble as a conduit for cultural exchange. In his capacity as a music educator, Hall has set up a pen pal program with public schools in Chicago and Bandung. For example, students at Hyde Park’s Kozminski Community Academy are paired with students at the Bandung Independent School. Hall has also used his social media savvy to share media of himself learning Indonesian traditional instruments with nearly 3,500 Twitter followers worldwide.
The founders note that the orchestra occupies a novel, sometimes precarious place in Indonesia's cultural sphere. After centuries of Dutch occupation, some Indonesians are understandably wary of any presence which smacks of cultural colonialism. It doesn’t help that many orchestras in the U.S. continue to launch dubious “outreach” programs positing Western classical music as a moral or socioeconomic catalyst.
“I think raising the specter of colonialism is something that’s probably very good to do and to be very, very sensitive to…. We didn’t want an American orchestra in Indonesia, nor did we want a couple Americans parachuting in and telling [musicians] how to do it,” Nordling said. “We’re trying to make a case that there is a place for classical Western symphonic repertoire—intelligently introduced, explained, themed—in conjunction and conversation with Indonesian composed music.”
Efferin affirmed that cultural context is key, noting that some aspects of what is considered “professional protocol” in a Western symphony orchestra clash with Indonesian social mores.
“In an orchestra, principals are expected to lead and be more demanding to their section. That’s a very hard thing to do for Indonesians, culturally—it’s impolite or improper to do so, and they don’t want to offend, especially someone older than them,” Efferin said.
Another slight cultural difference is how orchestral hierarchy is viewed by audiences in Indonesia. The “cult of the maestro” is common in the U.S., but in Indonesia, Efferin takes that role more readily in the public eye.
“The top is always the boss, the administrator, the person putting this all together that is recognized,” Hall said.
According to Efferin, the Bandung Philharmonic’s most ambitious long-term goal, aside from establishing a significant endowment, will be securing its own permanent home. Currently, it plays regularly at the ballroom in the Hilton Bandung, but “crossed fingers, we can convince some people to build a real hall in Bandung.”
“It’s like the movie Inception: we’re still incepting ideas into people’s minds,” Efferin joked. “But if we had a real performance hall, then everyone would benefit—not just the orchestra, but schools that want to have [a venue for] graduations, theater and dance companies…. It would really be a public asset.”