Last note for troubled conductor

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 September, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 28 September, 2002, 12:00am

Samuel Wong, the controversial music director of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, will not be reappointed when his three-year contract ends next July.

The orchestra made the announcement yesterday afternoon, ending months of speculation in the Hong Kong music world. No replacement has been nominated.

Acting chairman of the orchestra Dr Philip Kwok thanked Mr Wong for his contributions, saying the orchestra's repertoire and profile had grown under the conductor's supervision.

Ten musicians quit the 89-member orchestra earlier this year, with some saying there was widespread dissatisfaction with the orchestra's management and Mr Wong.

In total, 19 musicians have resigned from the orchestra since Mr Wong was appointed and another 15 have been sacked.

Mr Wong has attributed the turnover to changes as the orchestra grew in stature.

One commentator praised Mr Wong's passion, but said some of his early decisions about player selection had been ill advised. Very few conductors were popular, he noted.

However, another said the orchestra had become an international laughing stock under Mr Wong's leadership, and criticised his technical ability.

'It's been a disaster . . . the orchestra has actually regressed during the last two years in standards and reputation,' he said.

However, part of the problem stemmed from the orchestra's 'undemocratic' system, he added. 'The music director should not have total control of the programme, the visiting artists, the visiting conductors and all the new players being appointed,' he said.

Mr Wong was recently reappointed conductor of the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra. He also directs the orchestra of the Mannes College of Music.

Earlier this year, star cellist Yo-yo Ma publicly backed Mr Wong, a former eye surgeon who turned to full-time conducting in 1990.