Musical instruments and memorabilia take pride of place in the home of Uwe and Sharon Mueller, who occasionally host house concerts featuring up and coming performers from around the world.
Thu, Nov 25, 2010
The Business Times
By Melissa Lwee
IT IS often said that a family that plays together stays together, a mantra that bodes well for a couple like the Muellers, who are both active musicians in their own right.
|The Muellers' House of Music|
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'Our house is filled with music all the time,' says Uwe Mueller, vice-president of Lufthansa German Airlines, Asia & Pacific. 'My wife Sharon and I met in a musical harmony class when we were both in music school. She was studying to be a classical singer and I was studying to be a conductor and a concert pianist. Since then I have taken the business path and joined Lufthansa but music is something that we both love, and is very special to us as it was through music that we met.'
So it is not surprising to find that the Mueller residence in Woollerton Drive is filled with all kinds of music paraphernalia, which sit alongside the couple's burgeoning collection of Vietnamese art. Framed sketches of the costumes that Mrs Mueller wore during her opera performing days line the staircase walls; cupboards and shelves overflow with old records and music books; there is even a little 'practice piano' post-it note on the refrigerator door, written by their 11-year-old daughter Alina.
Also taking pride of place are the instruments in the house, such as the impressive looking grand piano in the living room that has travelled with the couple for the past 20 years or so as they moved from San Francisco to Germany, Israel, Dubai and finally Singapore, where they have been living for the past seven years.
There are also two antique pianos which were given to Mr Mueller by his parents. From his mother's side came a 130-year-old piano which his great-grandfather bought for his grandfather. This instrument sits in the dining room, ready for use during intimate dinner parties. From his father's side came an art deco era piano dating back to about 1910 that Mrs Mueller uses in her home studio to give voice lessons.
Mrs Mueller, who incidentally is a descendent of the famous 19th century Romantic composer Felix Mendelssohn, also brings into the mix her great-grandmother's violin.
'My great-grandmother played for the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra in 1918 and it is something really special because she was the only woman in the orchestra at that time and she was the principal violinist,' reveals Mrs Mueller. 'She was their first female concert master so she was quite something.'
It is against this backdrop that the couple hosts the annual - and sometimes bi-annual - Lufthansa branded house concerts where top customers of the company are treated to an intimate musical evening of performances by up and coming musicians. These have included the Moscow Rachmaninov Trio that performed twice in 2006 and 2007, and the 17-year-old German-Chinese pianist Inge Du who performed at their house just last month.
'We started to do this once or twice a year some five years ago in Singapore although together with Lufthansa's help, we've hosted many (concerts) over the past 14, 15 years when we were living in places like Tel Aviv and Dubai,' says Mr Mueller, adding that Lufthansa is very active in promoting cultural arts, sponsoring acts like the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra that will perform at the Esplanade next Tuesday and Wednesday.
'We often choose young students and artists who are on the brink of success and give them exposure by bringing them to Singapore and other parts of Asia to perform for our top business partners and customers.'
These house concerts, he says, hark back to the days when music was performed in smaller, more intimate settings. 'Back during the Classical and Romantic periods, music was composed and performed for small groups of royalty and aristocrats of no more than 40 or 50 at a time, which is why when you see some of the old theatres in Europe, they usually have no more than 200 seats and they are more often than not attached to castles,' explains Mr Mueller.
'We host between 50 and 80 people for our house concerts and we really feel that it gives people an experience that is not only different to the ones that they attend at, say, the Esplanade, but also allows them to have a better idea of the way these pieces of music were meant to be appreciated.'
The experience is enhanced by the fact that the house provides good enough acoustics for an intimate musical soiree, thanks to the high ceilings in the house.
'When we were looking at houses and we came across this one, the first thing I did when I walked in was to sing. Good acoustics was one of our pre-requisites for a house,' says Mrs Mueller with a laugh.
Apart from house concerts, the Muellers reveal that they sometimes perform for their guests. It was something that they used to do more of when they were in music school, but these days, they perform mostly in private for their own enjoyment.
'Someday, maybe when I retire, I will go back to playing more music in a professional capacity. But in the meantime, there are too many exciting opportunities with Lufthansa in the Asia-Pacific region for me to focus my efforts on,' he says.
'I will, however, say that my music education has really helped me in my business life. In music there's no black and white and I often think that my musical background is the reason why I can make business decisions that fall into such grey areas.'
More importantly, in his personal life, it is music that really strengthens the bonds in his family.
He concludes: 'In our family, we start off early in the morning by listening to a cultural channel on German Internet radio and there's music in our house all day long. It's great because it keeps the family together.'
This article was first published in The Business Times.