Sweet sound of democracy at Phil

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 May, 2011, 12:00am


A wind of change is blowing through Hong Kong's flagship orchestra as the search for a new maestro gets under way.

For the first time, two musicians from the Hong Kong Philharmonic will participate directly in the process of finding a successor to musical director Edo de Waart.

As part of the process, potential candidates are lined up to conduct the orchestra during the 2011-12 season, announced yesterday.

The new season runs from September to July next year with a budget of HK$100 million. It will be the eighth season for Dutchman de Waart, but he will conduct only five of the season's 39 programmes. About 20 guest conductors will take up the baton for the rest, among them 10 or so on the shortlist for the top job.

'It is very exciting that we have a range of conductors, some of whom are contenders to be the next music director,' said Michael MacLeod, who became the orchestra's chief executive officer last month.

'Because it is a process that will take a year or more. We are not in a position to name any individuals. But we look forward to the exciting process of accessing various conductors in the course of the new season.'

Liu Yuen-sung, the board chairman, said he hoped a new chief would emerge from the candidates, all of them endorsed by de Waart.

Of all the guest conductors to feature in the new season only two - Dallas Symphony Orchestra music director Jaap van Zweden and former Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra maestro Andreas Delfs - will perform more than one programme. But Liu said: 'That is not an indicator to anything because the calendar is set according to a conductor's own schedule. At present, nothing has been signed and we remain open to all qualified candidates.'

He said the search would take account of the opinions of orchestra members in a way that was unprecedented in the Philharmonic's history.

In the past, music directors were selected without players' participation. After de Waart announced last year he would be departing, a search committee was formed, with one of the five members a player.

'We are now planning to include one more orchestra representative to make it two among the existing five. The purpose is to generate a feeling of ownership among the players in the orchestra's development,' Liu said.

Richard Bamping, principal cello since 1993, said the involvement of players in the selection process would make members even more committed to 'forever improving'.

He said: 'We are looking forward to playing every concert like an audition for the next music director.''