Hong Kong conductor Lio Kuok-man joins Philadelphia Orchestra

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 May, 2014, 4:02am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 May, 2014, 4:02am

A Hong Kong conductor has been snapped up from under the noses of the city's Philharmonic to join a world-famous orchestra in America.

Lio Kuok-man, 32, a graduate of the Hong Kong Academy for the Performing Arts (APA), is joining the Philadelphia Orchestra as assistant conductor for the 2014-2015 concert season.

He said: "It has been my dream to work with the Philadelphia Orchestra ever since I first heard their live performance in Hong Kong when I was a student."

But Lio's appointment may be an embarrassment for the Hong Kong Philharmonic, which was also hoping to recruit the Macau-born musician.

The city orchestra's chief executive, Michael MacLeod, said: "I had several meetings with Lio and I thought he might have been very good for the Hong Kong Philharmonic.

"It seems the Philadelphians have snapped him up."

Just two weeks before Lio got the job in Philadelphia, the Hong Kong Philharmonic had asked him to conduct two programmes in June next year in what appeared to be a "job interview".

Founded in 1900, the Philadelphia Orchestra is one of the so-called Big Five orchestras in the US, with those in New York, Cleveland , Boston and Chicago.

In 1973 it was the first American orchestra to visit China.

Liu Yuen-sung, chairman of the Hong Kong Philharmonic's board, denied the orchestra had missed out on Lio.

He said the chemistry between orchestra and conductor was so delicate that "how he fits in with the Philadelphia players may not necessarily be the same as with the Hong Kong players".

He added: "It is not right to say we have lost a local talent to others because our recruitment process has yet to kick off and the process takes time."

Local musicians praised Lio's talent. Yip Wing-sie, music director of the Hong Kong Sinfonietta, who coached Lio at the APA, was impressed with his diligence.

"It was in his first year and he came to every class fully prepared, memorising the music scores and was very confident in making his beats," Yip said.

Chan Hing-yan, chairman of the Music Department at the University of Hong Kong, recalled Lio's "amazing" performance of his new chamber opera Xiaohong at last year's Hong Kong Arts Festival. "His musicality is very sharp," Chan said.