Hong Kong, 9 June 2005 – The Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra (HKPO) announced its second season today under the artistic directorship of Maestro Edo de Waart, with 23 different programmes and dramatic initiatives starting with the concert opera Elektra on 15 September 2005. Other highlights include a season-long parade of outstanding young musical artists who have come out of China and Hong Kong, exploration of Asian contemporary music, and interdisciplinary collaborations featuring modern dance. In addition to continuing the popular "Mozart in the City" series to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the *composer’s birth, the 2005/06 season ends with a three-week Tchaikovsky Festival, a comprehensive look at this romantic giant’s late symphonies and best-loved concertos.
The 2005/06 subscription season, which comprises 45 concerts in total, presents a wide range of musical experiences starring outstanding conductors and soloists from all over the world; this new season is also a display of the Orchestra’s commitment to Hong Kong’s artistic and cultural life, and to Hong Kong audiences.
"The beating heart of my second season with the Hong Kong Philharmonic is the Orchestra itself, a body of fine musicians whose ability to rise to the occasion has been proven concert after concert," said Edo de Waart. "I hope music lovers in Hong Kong will find music they love by artists they admire in the new season’s programme."
"We are so honoured that legendary Chinese martial arts novelist Louis Cha made this invaluable gift to our season opener, Elektra. He translated the title into idiomatic classical Chinese, which literally means ‘love and hatred in the palace’, in the same vein as Mr. Cha’s novels of suspenseful relationships and courtly intrigue," de Waart continued.
Joined by the HKPO’s newly appointed Chief Executive, Timothy Calnin, who helped devise the season’s programme to enrich Hong Kong’s music scene, de Waart stressed the importance of musical excellence and commitment to the local community. Known and proven as an orchestra builder, de Waart extends the season’s programmes with not only extra-musical collaborations, but also a balanced mixture of classics, contemporary music, and even a Broadway programme as part of his longer-term plan of audience development in Hong Kong. An educator with a true sense of mission, de Waart is committed to the orchestra reaching Hong Kong young people – in joint programmes with the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, and in the annual concerts at University campuses in addition to the season programme.
"A series of HKPO concerts will feature narrators in Cantonese and English to guide the audience, to enhance their listening enjoyment. We have the pleasure to have renowned RTHK Radio 4 presenters Kathy Lam and Ben Pelletier as the narrators for the ‘Simply Classic’ series," said Calnin.
The first opportunity in the new season for HKPO musicians to wow audience and critics alike is the season opener, Richard Strauss’s Elektra. The event is the second instalment of HKPO’s multi-year initiative to present major operas in concert performances. In January 2005, de Waart’s premiere performance of Salome – Opera in Concert was a stunning event that transformed the conventional concert-going experience. It was a first-class performance that set a new standard in Hong Kong operatic history. Esteemed music critic Leo Lee commented in Yazhou Zhoukan, "in the few months since Edo de Waart took over the HKPO, he has transformed it, and their performance now sounds like that of a first-class, international orchestra. This is truly a miracle." (January 2005)
On 15 & 17 September 2005, star vocalists of the Salome concerts, Susan Bullock and Christ Merritt, will return to perform Elektra. Dame Gwyneth Jones, one of the greatest living Wagnerian sopranos, will join the stellar cast as Klytaemnestra.
Elektra, based on the Greek drama by Sophocles, tells of daughter Elektra’s obsessive hatred for her mother, the queen Klytaemnestra who murdered her own husband to bed with the enemy. In this opera that delves deep into the human psyche, irony and parody, dramatic plot developments are matched minute by minute with orchestral music laden with tension. Strauss’s Elektra, which premiered in 1909 in Dresden, has entered into the operatic repertory worldwide. It also marked the beginning of the long and fruitful collaboration between composer Richard Strauss and librettist Hugo von Hoffmansthal, 5 years before the sensational triumph of Der Rosenkavalier, which brought tremendous wealth and instant celebrity to both creators.
The HKPO presentation of Elektra – Opera in Concert will include the finest Chinese and English surtitles, lighting design, and comprehensive published materials that truly inform the audience, whether novice or seasoned in opera or the oeuvre of Richard Strauss.
PARADE OF CHINESE PERFORMERS
Chinese artists form a brilliant core in the HKPO new season. No one can deny that China’s musical talents have gained tremendous acclaim in the world in the past decade.
In total, 8 soloists and 2 conductors of Chinese descent will be featured in the 2005/06 season. These performers are featured in different series of the season, but they share one goal: as living proof to Hong Kong audiences that Chinese artists have reached true excellence in the classical music arena, that they are a real force in bringing classical music to further heights in the decades to come.
HKPO celebrates two outstanding young Chinese artists who have made international headlines in the "Great Performers" series. On 26-27 January 2006, Hong Kong audience will witness for the first time Yundi Li performing under the baton of Edo de Waart in Liszt’s First Piano Concerto. Multi-awardwinning cellist Wang Jian returns to fascinate Hong Kong concertgoers with his rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Rococo Variations (30 June-1 July 2006).
Another classic work featured in the 2005/06 season, Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto, will be performed by Rachel Cheung (13-14 January 2006), Hong Kong-born wunderkind who has won the hearts of local audiences and international jurors alike. Li Chuanyun, who grew up in Hong Kong and won the Fifth Wieniawski International Youth Violin Competition at age 11, returns with the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto (23-24 June 2006). Violinist Lu Siqing (winner of the Paganini International Competition in 1987) and cellist Qin Li-wei (Silver medallist, 11th Tchaikovsky International Competition; winner of the 2001 Naumburg Competition) join hands in the beautiful and challenging Brahms Double Concerto (21-22 April 2006). Mozart’s final piano concerto (No. 27) will be performed by Macao-born pianist David Tong in the "Mozart in the City" series (26-27 May 2006).
Hong Kong-born conductor Jason Lai leads Beijing-born guitarist Yang Xuefei in a programme celebrating Latin America, with Astor Piazzolla’s Concerto for Bandoneon and Guitar (28-29 October 2005, along with Argentinian bandoneon master Walther Castro), while Lü Jia leads the HKPO in the Hong Kong premiere of Guangzhou-born composer Chen Yi’s Percussion Concerto (12-13 May 2006) featuring HKPO’s own percussion soloist Adrian Stefanescu. Chen’s work has received tremendous acclaim since its 1999 world premiere in Singapore by Evelyn Glennie. It has since been pioneered by Glennie and presented by such illustrious groups as the San Francisco Symphony and the 2003 BBC Proms.
The HKPO commitment to local and Chinese music and musicians also extends into programming existing works for orchestra by established Chinese composers. Apart from Chen Yi’s Percussion Concerto, HKPO will also feature Hong Kong composer Law Wing-fai’s Sphere supreme as the opening work of the first "Mastery" concert, led by Edo de Waart (7-8 October 2005).
OPENING THE EYES TO THE NEW HKPO EXPERIENCE
Music is not only an experience to be heard, it also has to be seen and felt. The excitement of a live orchestral concert (as compared to listening to a recording) is that the eye receives stimuli that connect sounds and motions. In the 2005/06 season, the HKPO opens the door to the orchestral stage to modern dance, in addition to other new sensations.
Soloists from the City Contemporary Dance Company (CCDC) perform in the "Latin Passion" programme (28-29 October 2005) that combines South American colours, rhythm and movement, choreographed by CCDC Resident Choreographer Helen Lai. This inaugural "Soundfest" concert is part of the Latin Passion Festival organized by the LCSD. Included in the same programme are symphonic works by Latin composers (Juan Carlos Cobian, Astor Piazzolla) and those inspired by Latin cultures (Aaron Copland, George Gershwin, Ottorino Respighi, Manuel de Falla).
Later in the season, HKPO presents its first dance commission, in which Hong Kong choreographer Mui Cheuk-yin presents her interpretation of Ravel’s Bolero with HKPO in "Symphonic Dances" (2-3 June 2006). This programme also includes the Hong Kong premiere of Australian composer Ross Edwards’s Oboe Concerto, written for Diana Doherty, who appears on stage combining dazzling dance movements and oboe performance.
All percussion concertos are special sights to see. Apart from Chen Yi’s Percussion Concerto, the HKPO 2005/06 season highlights another Asian tradition of drumming in Hi-ten-yu by Japanese composer Isao Matsushita, starring Taiko master Eitetsu Hayashi. This concerto, which took audiences by storm when Hayashi performed with the Berlin Philharmonic in 2000, will surely inspire and excite. On 14-15 April 2006, the ancient ritual of Taiko comes into the HKPO "Soundfest" series and brings with it fresh sounds and atmospheres, from prayer-like concentration to massive sonic outbursts, shaking the Hong Kong Cultural Centre to its foundations. Paired with Hi-ten-yu is Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, which paints stories from The Arabian Nights with Technicolor vividness to create one of the most lush and picturesque scores in the orchestral repertoire.
The HKPO has also devised a Broadway extravaganza (6-7 May 2006) in the "Soundfest" series. Led by HKPO resident conductor Harmen Cnossen, this programme entices non-classical listeners to come and enjoy the live orchestral experience. Broadway highlights include well-known hits from recent blockblusters: Phantom of the Opera, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Carousel, West Side Story, Cabaret, Chicago, Les Miserables and Miss Saigon.
PUTTING ANNIVERSARIES IN CONTEXT: MOZART & SHOSTAKOVICH
The best-known genius of all classical music, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, was born in 1756 in Salzburg, and 2006 marks the 250th anniversary of his birth. Mozart’s name caught the late 20th-century imagination first with the award-winning Hollywood film Amadeus. Most recently, scientists have coined the term "Mozart Effect," on the beneficial effects of classical music from pregnancy to infancy, creating a new appreciation of this classical composer. As a contrast, 2006 also marks the centenary of the birth of Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich, one of the greatest symphonic masters of the 20th century, who is featured in a programme solely devoted to him (25 March 2006), including his Symphony No. 5 and Piano Quintet.
The HKPO has planned an unusual series for 2005/06, "Mozart in the City," with specially-themed concerts combining Mozart with Haydn, Beethoven, and Shostakovich. This series of concerts (7 April-17 June 2006) encompasses the earliest to the latest symphonies and concertos of Mozart, and contrasts them with similarly iconic compositions – Haydn’s Symphony No. 98 (written in 1791, when Haydn heard the news of Mozart’s death); Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5; and Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony.
Maestro Edo de Waart, a world-renowned Mozart interpreter, will lead the HKPO in the final instalment of "Mozart in the City," performing the last three symphonies of Mozart all in one concert (16-17 June 2006). Other illustrious interpreters in the "Mozart in the City" series include violinists Richard Tognetti and John Harding, conductor Jaap van Zweden, and pianists Igor Roma and David Tong.
SEASON FINALE: TCHAIKOVSKY FESTIVAL
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, best known for his symphonies, ballet scores, and grand concertos, remains a fascinating enigma to serious and casual music lovers even now. His indelible melancholic melodies have entered not only concert halls, but any performing media with sound (theatre, stage, film) in the past century. Celebrated and reviled during his lifetime by different sectors of the Russian aristocracy and music public, Tchaikovsky’s tragic last years might have been the sole source of the sheer magic and pathos of his last symphonies. However, his other works contain utter grace and truly magnificent melodies, shaped and tailored perfectly for every instrument he scored.
The HKPO puts together the most significant of Tchaikovsky’s purely orchestral works for the closing three weeks of the 2005/06 season (23 June-8 July 2006). Edo de Waart leads the HKPO in the first concert (23-24 June 2006) with the Polonaise from Eugene Onegin and Symphony No. 5, along with the Violin Concerto performed by Chinese violinist Li Chuanyun.
In the second concert (30 June-1 July 2006), cellist Wang Jian brings the Rococo Variations to life under the baton of Ion Marin, flanked by the symphonic poem Francesca da Rimini and Symphony No. 4. The latter was dedicated to Nadezhda von Meck, the wealthy widow who was Tchaikovsky’s generous benefactor, passionate correspondent and loyal fan for 14 years of his life. When this symphony was premiered, the public response was most favourable and Tchaikovsky believed it to be his best work yet.
The final concert of the Tchaikovsky Festival features pianist Simon Trpceski in the Piano Concerto No. 1 (7-8 July 2006), a romantic, heroic and bravura work unparalleled in music history. Conductor Gianluigi Gelmetti, who is Music Director of both the Rome Opera House and the Sydney Symphony, closes the season finale with Symphony No. 6, a work that is forever associated with the composer’s sudden death. Written in the last year of his life, this Symphony only had a lukewarm reception at its premiere on 28 October 1893. 10 days later, the composer was dead. The pathos and mystery surrounding the tragedy have fascinated historians: Was it suicide or was it cholera? We can certainly empathize with the pathos of this Symphony, painted so richly in textless melodies and harmonies. No one doubts the emotional depth this work reaches in each and every listener.
OTHER FEATURED ARTISTS
Other guest artists this season include Boris Berezovsky, Michele Campanella, Alexander Lazarev, William Preucil, Ola Rudner, Kyoko Takezawa, Nikolaj Znaider and Jaap van Zweden. HKPO Conductor Laureate David Atherton returns in the 2005/06 season in the "Mastery", "Soundfest", and "Simply Classic" series.
Season subscription offering up to 30% discount and fabulous gifts is now open until 18 July 2005. Brochures are available at Hong Kong Cultural Centre, Hong Kong City Hall, and other URBTIX outlets. Details are also available online at www.hkpo.com.