Controversial conductor keeps a job, but is demoted

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 November, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 November, 2002, 12:00am

The Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra's new governing committee yesterday reversed a decision to cast off controversial music director Samuel Wong, but demoted him to a new post of 'principal conductor'.

The decision came as a survey conducted by orchestra players found 80 per cent did not want Mr Wong to stay on.

In September, the general committee decided not to renew Mr Wong's contract and made plans for a 'farewell' concert. Within weeks, the government dismissed three of the members who made the decision and appointed nine new members.

Musicians then speculated that the man who wooed eye surgeon-turned-conductor Mr Wong for the job, Secretary of Home Affairs Patrick Ho Chi-ping, was behind the reshuffle. His bureau said the changes were standard procedure.

The new chairman of the general committee of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Society, Hu Fa-kuang, said he wanted an end to infighting and to improve communication with players.

Mr Hu congratulated Mr Wong on the success of a recent CD of Busoni works which made the British classical bestseller chart.

The orchestra would review its direction and its artistic leadership requirements and identify a new music director when this process was complete, he said. He did not commit to a time frame.

Orchestra members contacted by the Post yesterday had not been informed of Mr Wong's fresh appointment. Ten musicians quit the 89-member orchestra earlier this year, some of them saying there was widespread dissatisfaction with the orchestra's management and Mr Wong.

One member, speaking anonymously, said the move to keep Mr Wong was unlikely to spark further resignations despite the results of a recent survey among players which found 80 per cent wanted him to go. 'It's a great group and will continue to be so regardless of who's at the podium,' the player said.