Written by Russian composer Vladimir Martynov about Singapore, the work was premiered in Russian as the “SINGAPORE” Symphony in 2005. The English version is renamed “UTOPIA” in keeping with Martynov’s original impulse for the piece. Utopia, for Martynov, was not a destination or a state of being, but a process of becoming and striving to do better.
The first in a series of Iconic Initiatives, the UTOPIA Symphony implicitly magnifies Singapore’s place in history as a model of success. This project is led by the Foundation for The Arts and Social Enterprise, an arts charity in Singapore which seeks to raise the level of the arts in Singapore by promoting our artists to the global stage and initiating iconic projects with enduring impact.
When Foundation Founder Michael Tay was in Moscow as Ambassador, he had commissioned Vladimir Martynov, a major Russian composer, to compose a choral symphony about Singapore. The “SINGAPORE” Symphony was premiered in 2005 in Moscow and 2007 in Singapore. The Singapore Premiere was performed by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and attended by President S R Nathan and MM Lee Kuan Yew. Commissioning the “SINGAPORE” Symphony was a venture to alter the Russian perception of Singapore and to bind the two countries closer. The next phase is to transform the symphony from a bilateral project into a universal undertaking.
The symphony is renamed “UTOPIA”, as that was the original impulse of Martynov’s composition. Martynov was very taken by the idea of “Singapore”, using “utopia” to describe the constant striving to excel and exceed its limitations. Utopia, for Martynov, was not a destination or a state of being, but a process of becoming and striving to do better. He compared Singapore to the Tao – “The Tao that can be described is no longer the Tao” – which is reflected in the choral part of the symphony.
In November 2019, the London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO) recorded the UTOPIA Symphony at the Abbey Road Studios in London and the album was released on the LPO classical music label. To maintain the connection with Singapore, the album cover was based on a painting called “Utopia” by an emerging Singapore artist Kenny Low. A young Singapore violinist Loh Jun Hong played the solo parts with the LPO on the recording.