Tengku Irfan, 20 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 concerti.
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. This led to future reengagements with Neeme Järvi and collaborations with Kristjan Järvi.
Previous performances include with the Juilliard Orchestra, solo recital at the la Virée classique Festival Montreal (on invitation from Kent Nagano), AXIOM, Singapore Symphony Orchestra, Sao Paulo State Youth Orchestra, Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, Aspen Chamber Symphony, Peoria Symphony Orchestra, MDR Sinfonieorchester and Aspen Philharmonic Orchestra, amongst others.
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.
After winning the first prize in the Aspen Music Festival 2013 Prokofiev Piano Concerto No.2 Competition, Irfan continued to perform this concerto worldwide.
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 saw 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, amongst others.
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. The Singapore Symphony Orchestra world premiered Meditation in Singapore & Kuala Lumpur. 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).
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 in April 2015, for the premiere of his string orchestral piece Nocturne. He conducted the premiere of his piece Pengembaraan Minda dan Kenyataan in New York, and recently conducted the Malaysian Philharmonic Youth Orchestra for the world premiere of his orchestral piece What Does It Take to Dance? in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
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), Tokyo Opera City Hall (Japan), Hong Kong and Washington DC.
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.
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.