Shui Lan



Shui Lan (b. 1957, Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China–),1 also known as Lan Shui, is an internationally acclaimed conductor. He was appointed music director of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) in 1997 and has been credited with transforming the SSO into a world-class orchestra.2 For his contributions to the music scene, Shui was awarded the Cultural Medallion for Music in 2009.3

Early life and artistic career4
Shui comes from a well-to-do family. His grandfather was a banker, his father was in a senior management position at a national bank, and his mother was a doctor. His paternal aunt and her husband were musicians. Shui started to learn the violin when he was about five years old.


When Shui was still a child, Mao Zedong launched the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) in China. The young Shui had to stop his violin lessons as Western music was considered decadent and bourgeois at the time. Ironically, it was during this period that Shui realised how much he loved and missed music. He thus made up his mind to become a violinist when he grew up.

Shui was 13 years old when he was selected to join the People’s Liberation Army Song and Dance Troupe in Beijing because he could play the violin. Under his father’s encouragement, Shui left his home in Hangzhou for Beijing to join the troupe. There, he met Professor Xu Xin, a well-known conductor. Xu felt that Shui had the makings of a conductor and tried many times to persuade him to take up the baton but Shui was not interested.

When he was 18, Shui injured his fingers in an accident during a football game and could no longer play the violin as a result. Shui was then sent to the Shanghai Conservatory of Music to learn music composition. However, he did not like the subject and returned to Beijing in 1979, feeling lost and uncertain about his music career.

It was at this time that China started to open its doors again after more than a decade of having a closed-door policy. The Berlin Philharmonic was invited to Beijing and Shui managed to catch its performance. He was impressed by the group’s conductor, Herbert von Karajan, and realised the impact that a conductor could have on the orchestra. He was thus moved to reconsider conducting as a career.

The 1980s was the turning point in Shui’s music career. He enrolled in the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing and studied conducting under professors Xu Xin and Huang Fei Li.

Artistic development
In 1986, Shui made his professional conducting début with the Central Philharmonic Orchestra in Beijing and was later appointed conductor of the Beijing Symphony Orchestra.5 In the same year, he received a scholarship and left for the United States for his graduate studies at Boston University.6

In the United States, Shui’s talent in conducting drew the attention of several maestros and he was given the opportunity to work with them. Shui worked with Leonard Bernstein at the Tanglewood Music Festival and, in 1990, he caught the attention of David Zinman when he conducted at the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Summer Festival.7

In 1992, Zinman invited him to become a conducting affiliate of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra for two seasons.8 The Baltimore Sun described Shui as an “immensely likable and talented young conductor”.9

From 1994 to 1997, Shui served as associate conductor to Neeme Järvi at the Detroit Symphony. During the same period, Shui assisted Kurt Masur at the New York Philharmonic and worked with Boulez and the Cleveland Orchestra on its Young Conductors’ Project in Paris.10

Shui first became acquainted with the SSO in 1993, and again in 1994 as its guest conductor. He liked Singapore and when the SSO’s founding music director Choo Hoey invited him to take up the position of music director, Shui accepted.11 Shui has been the SSO’s music director since 1997.12 Shui has also been chief conductor of the Copenhagen Philharmonic since 2007, and served as artistic advisor to the National Taiwan Symphony from 2011 to 2013.13

Shui is credited with taking SSO to the international stage through performances in countries such as Germany, France, Spain and China, all of which received rave reviews.14 Not only has Shui been part of SSO's transformation into a world-class orchestra known for its Mahler and Rachmaninov interpretations, he has also ensured that the SSO excels at playing the works of Asian composers, such as Bright Sheng and Chen Yi.15 Under his leadership, attendances at SSO concerts in Singapore have also increased.

Since 1998, Shui has recorded over 18 music albums for the BIS label. Notable releases with the SSO include the first complete symphonies of Tcherepnin and a Seascapes CD, which won a place in MusicWeb International’s 2007 Recordings of the Year. His recordings have been nominated twice for the Grammy Awards.16

Shui is the recipient of several international awards from the Beijing Arts Festival, New York Tcherepnin Society, Boston University (Distinguished Alumni Award) and Singapore Cultural Medallion.17

Stylistic conventions
One of the conductors who had a great influence on Shui was Zinman. Shui felt that Zinman was a great conductor because he was able to build up and raise the standards of orchestras who were until then relatively unknown.18

Shui sees himself not only as a conductor but as the builder of an orchestra. With the SSO, his goal from the start was to build it up into an orchestra of international standing with the ability to perform all genres of music. Thus Shui began with building the orchestra’s foundations and then raising its standards of performance.19

Shui also wanted to build a sense of belonging to the orchestra among the members as he considered this as an important component of a good orchestra.20 Thus, in 1999, Shui formed a committee consisting of the musicians to enable them to have a say in the decision-making process.21

Shui said in an interview in 2012, “So if you ask me what about my 14 years at the SSO am I proudest of, I’d say it’s the morale of the orchestra. It is when people feel happy about themselves and happy about working with this orchestra, that a certain chemistry and magic can take place, where in terms of the music, one plus one equals not two, but three”.22

Family
Shui is married to an Icelandic cellist and has a son, Shui Ning.23

Selected awards
2007: Seascapes CD included in MusicWeb International’s 2007 Recordings of the Year listing.24
2009: Awarded the Cultural Medallion for Music in 2009.25



Author
Chor Poh Chin



References
1. Dacapo Records. (2014). Lan Shui. Retrieved from Dacapo Records website: http://www.dacapo-records.dk/en/artist-lan-shui.aspx; Tan, S. C. (2009, October 17). Medallion heroes. The Straits Times, p. 107. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Tan, S. C. (2009, October 17). Medallion heroes. The Straits Times, p. 107. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. National Arts Council Singapore. (2013, October 4). Cultural Medallion & Young Artist Award Recipients for Music. Retrieved from National Arts Council website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/art-forms/music/local-directory/cultural-medallion-young-artist-award-recipients-for-music
4. 胡文雁 [Hu, W. Y.]. (2008, December 16). 水蓝把生命分一半给儿子. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Hong Kong Philharmonic. (2012). Artists – Lan Shui. Retrieved from Hong Kong Philharmonic website: http://www.hkpo.com/eng/concerts_and_ticket/artists/artistsdetail.jsp?id=917
6. 胡文雁 [Hu, W. Y.]. (2008, December 16). 水蓝把生命分一半给儿子. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Hong Kong Philharmonic. (2012). Artists – Lan Shui. Retrieved from Hong Kong Philharmornic website: http://www.hkpo.com/eng/concerts_and_ticket/artists/artistsdetail.jsp?id=917
8. Hong Kong Philharmonic. (2012). Artists – Lan Shui. Retrieved from Hong Kong Philharmonic website: http://www.hkpo.com/eng/concerts_and_ticket/artists/artistsdetail.jsp?id=917; 胡文雁 [Hu, W. Y.]. (2008, December 16). 胡文雁 [Hu, W. Y.]. (2008, December 16). 水蓝把生命分一半给儿子. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Tan, L. (2012, April 22). Culture – Lan Shui. Retrieved from Prestige Singapore website: http://prestige-singapore.com.sg/2012/04/lan-shui#.UteQL6_2MqR
10.  Hong Kong Philharmonic. (2012). Artists – Lan Shui. Retrieved from Hong Kong Philharmonic website: http://www.hkpo.com/eng/concerts_and_ticket/artists/artistsdetail.jsp?id=917
11. 新加坡交响乐团聘水蓝任音乐总监 [Xinjiapo Jiao Xiang Yue Tuan pin Shui Lan ren yin yue zong jian]. (1996, November 8). 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Tan, S. C. (2009, October 17). Medallion heroes. The Straits Times, p.107. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Singapore Symphony Orchestra. Music director Lan Shui. Retrieved from Singapore Symphony Orchestra website: http://sso.org.sg/page.php?CategoryID=233
14. Tan, S. C. (2009, October 17). Medallion heroes. The Straits Times, p.107. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Tan, L. (2012, April 22). Culture – Lan Shui. Retrieved from Prestige Singapore website: http://prestige-singapore.com.sg/2012/04/lan-shui#.UteQL6_2MqR
16. Singapore Symphony Orchestra. Music director Lan Shui. Retrieved from Singapore Symphony Orchestra website: http://sso.org.sg/page.php?CategoryID=233
17. Singapore Symphony Orchestra. Music director Lan Shui. Retrieved from Singapore Symphony Orchestra website: http://sso.org.sg/page.php?CategoryID=233
18. 不满足于只当音乐总监 [Bu man zu yu zhi dang yin yue zong jian]. (2006, January 19). 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 43. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. 不满足于只当音乐总监 [Bu man zu yu zhi dang yin yue zong jian]. (2006, January 19). 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 43. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. 不满足于只当音乐总监 [Bu man zu yu zhi dang yin yue zong jian]. (2006, January 19). 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 43; 胡文雁 [Hu, W. Y.]. (2008, December 16). 水蓝把生命分一半给儿子. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. 不满足于只当音乐总监 [Bu man zu yu zhi dang yin yue zong jian]. (2006, January 19). 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 43. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Tan, L. (2012, April 22). Culture – Lan Shui. Retrieved from Prestige Singapore website: http://prestige-singapore.com.sg/2012/04/lan-shui#.UteQL6_2MqR
23. 胡文雁 [Hu, W. Y.]. (2008, December 16).  水蓝把生命分一半给儿子. 联合早报 [Lianhe Zaobao], p. 25. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Singapore Symphony Orchestra. Music director Lan Shui. Retrieved from Singapore Symphony Orchestra website: http://sso.org.sg/page.php?CategoryID=233
25. National Arts Council Singapore. (2013, October 4). Cultural Medallion & Young Artist Award Recipients for Music. Retrieved from National Arts Council website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/art-forms/music/local-directory/cultural-medallion-young-artist-award-recipients-for-music



The information in this article is valid as at 5 March 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
pers
Personalities
Arts