"sheer incisiveness (and) power"
THE NEW YORK TIMES
"...his apparent coolness while generating white heat in playing must be the most enviable trait in this profession."
THE STRAITS TIMES
"...admirable crispness and flair."
THE ASPEN TIMES
Tengku Irfan, 18 year old Malaysian, started his piano lessons at age 7 and developed an interest in composing shortly after. He started composing piano pieces and later branched out with chamber pieces and larger orchestral works. Irfan has performed with orchestras worldwide with conductors Claus Peter Flor, Neeme Järvi, Kristjan Järvi, Robert Spano, George Stelluto, Sydney Hodkinson, Larry Rachleff, Jeffrey Milarsky, Timothy Weiss, Stephen Burns, Evan Rogister, Nicolae Moldoveanu, Darrell Ang, Dariusz Mikulski, Claudio Cruz among others. The New York Times described his playing as “eminently cultured” and possessing “sheer incisiveness and power”. His compositions have been premiered by highly acclaimed orchestras/ensembles and won international awards.
His debut major performance was at age 11, as a soloist performing Beethoven's Piano Concerto in E flat (Wo04) with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of music director Claus Peter Flor, when he improvised his own cadenzas for all three movements. He continued to improvise his own cadenzas during subsequent performances of Mozart Piano Concerto No. 8 with Claus Peter Flor and Mozart Piano Concerto No. 27 with Dariusz Mikulski and the Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra.
Amongst his other onstage improvisation was in 2010, when he improvised on the piano to music simultaneously improvised by Neeme Järvi and the orchestra, at an event jointly organised by the International Arbo Valdma Summer Master Class for Pianists and Neeme Järvi International Master Class for Conductors.
In 2011, he reteamed with Neeme Järvi to perform Chopin Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra and later, with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra to perform Mozart Piano Concerto No. 7 for three pianos and Bach Concerto for two pianos BWV1062 for its 2011/2012 Season Opening Gala Concert.
At the Aspen Music Festival 2012, Irfan performed a four-hand piano concert with Yoheved Kaplinsky, where he learned and performed a repertoire previously unknown to him in mere two days upon being called at short notice to replace Choong Mo Kang, who injured his hand just before the concert.
He is also often chosen to premier new compositions (in performances and studio recordings) due to his speed and ease in learning new and demanding repertoire, and also for his interpretation of composers’ works.
As the first prize winner in the Aspen Music Festival 2013 Prokofiev Piano Concerto No.2 Competition, Irfan performed with the American Academy of Conducting at Aspen (AACA) Orchestra, under the baton of Nathan Aspinall, Lee Mills & Gemma New.
In 2014, Irfan was chosen as resident pianist for the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, led by composer/conductor Sydney Hodkinson, and later by conductors Donald Crockett, Timothy Weiss and Stephen Burns. 2017 sees Irfan serving his fourth consecutive year in the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble. Irfan's chamber performances include collaborations with Esther Heideman, Edgar Meyer, David Halen, Robert Chen, James Dunham, Bruce Bransby, George Jackson and Nikolas Nägele.
At the Juilliard Gala 2014, Irfan performed with Evan Rogister & the Juilliard Orchestra.
Recent engagements include with Singapore Symphony Orchestra under Darrell Ang (Singapore), Orquestra Jovem do Estado de São Paulo under Claudio Cruz (Sao Paulo and Jundiai City, Brazil), re-engagement with Neeme Järvi/Estonian National Symphony Orchestra (Tallinn, Estonia), with Nicolae Moldoveanu/Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra & Transylvania State Philharmonic Choir (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), Larry Rachleff/Aspen Chamber Symphony (Aspen Music Festival), George Stelluto/Peoria Symphony Orchestra, Kristjan Järvi/MDR Simfonieorchester, and with Robert Spano/Aspen Philharmonic Orchestra.
Irfan won both the 2012 ASCAP Morton Gould Award and the 2012 Charlotte Bergen Award for his ‘String Quartet’. His orchestral piece Sahibul Hikayat Fantasy Overture, which was commissioned and premiered by the Malaysia Philharmonic Orchestra for their 2013-14 Season Opening & 15th Anniversary Gala, won the 2014 ASCAP Morton Gould Award.
His composition, an orchestral piece titled 'Keraian', was premiered by the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall, with Case Scaglione conducting. Another orchestral piece titled 'Vivacity' was commissioned and performed by Kristjan Järvi & the MDR Simfonieorchester at the Leipzig Gewandhaus as part of the Leipzig Bachfest 2016 - 'Vivacity' won Irfan his third ASCAP Morton Gould Award (2017).
He has performed on live telecasts on national television in Malaysia, and on popular U.S. classical music radio programs 'From the Top' (when he was introduced by Emanuel Ax), WQXR, WGBH Classical New England's 'Drive Time Live', Europe's Klassikaraadio, Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk (MDR.de), and Deutschland Radio.
His other compositions which have been premiered in New York include ‘Twelve-Tone Variations’ (piano), ‘Vier Miniaturen’ (clarinet & piano), ‘Introduction and March’ (trumpet & piano), ‘Symphony No.1’ (full orchestra), ‘Nocturne’(string orchestra), 'Suite for Wind Quartet', 'Melody' (violin & piano) and 'Moment Musical No.2' (bassoon & harp). Irfan's choral piece 'Tragedi Dewi Suria' was premiered by choral conductor Harold Rosenbaum and the New York Virtuoso Singers.
Irfan made his conducting debut with the MusicaNova Orchestra during the world premiere of his string orchestral piece 'Nocturne'. Recently he conducted the world premiere of his work 'Pengembaraan Minda & Kenyataan' at the Lincoln Center, New York.
Amongst the venues worldwide which he has performed include the Central Music School of the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory, Dewan Filharmonik Petronas (Kuala Lumpur), Kuala Lumpur Convention Center, Nokia Concert Hall (Estonia), Pärnu Concert Hall (Estonia), The Benedict Music Tent (Aspen), Harris Hall (Aspen), Ho Chi Minh City Opera House (Vietnam), Hanoi Opera House (Vietnam), Alice Tully Hall (Lincoln Center, New York), Peter Jay Sharp Theater (Lincoln Center, New York), Merkin Concert Hall (Lincoln Center, New York), Esplanade Concert Hall (Singapore), Sala Sao Paulo (Brazil), Teatro Polytheama (Brazil), Suhl Centrum (Germany), Leipzig Gewandhaus (Germany), Hong Kong and Washington DC.
Irfan was a double major in piano & composition in Juilliard Pre-College (under Yoheved Kaplinsky & Ira taxin). He is currently in Juilliard School as a double major in piano & composition under Yoheved Kaplinsky and Robert Beaser respectively, and also studying conducting with George Stelluto. Irfan was a High Honors high school student at the Professional Children's School, served as Teaching Artist Intern for the New York Philharmonic Composer’s Bridge Program, and a proud recipient of the Juilliard School Kovner Fellowship Award.