The Arts

Tengku Ahmad Irfan

A young maestro widely acknowledged for his gifts in playing the piano, composing and conducting, Tengku Ahmad Irfan has wowed audiences both as a performer and orchestra leader

Profile


Tengku Ahmad Irfan is a pianist, composer and conductor who has performed with orchestras worldwide, composed award-winning compositions and conducted orchestras, all by age 16. A piano prodigy, he was discovered by his parents playing classical pieces on an electronic Yamaha keyboard, moving them to send him for piano lessons at the age of seven.

Irfan soon developed an interest in composing and by 11, he had made his debut as a featured soloist with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto in E flat where he improvised his own cadenzas for all three movements.

So far, he has received three ASCAP Morton Gould Awards and a Charlotte Bergen Award for his compositions and had them performed by ensembles including the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, Germany’s MDR Sinfonieorchester and the New York Philharmonic. One of Irfan’s compositions, commissioned by Estonian conductor and composer Kristjan Järvi, was also performed at Leipzig Gewandhaus in Germany, where Mozart and Beethoven premiered their own compositions.

In 2015, he made his debut as a conductor with the MusicaNova Orchestra, premiering his own composition, a string orchestral piece titled Nocturne. Irfan has also conducted the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, which he was appointed as youth ambassador. A recent graduate of New York’s Juilliard School with a Bachelor of Music, where he double-majored in piano and composition, Irfan plans to pursue his master’s in the next two years.

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Irfan says that if he were to pick a career outside music, he would be a chef. He was one of 100 performers—including dancers, musicians, actors, singers and celebrity alumni—who performed on the Bolero Juilliard, a special lockdown performance to Ravel’s iconic score, where all performances were recorded at home and later synched together into a 10-minute video. 

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