Hong Kong conductor Woo Pak-tuen takes second prize in global contest

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 July, 2014, 5:26am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 July, 2014, 10:09am

Hongkonger Woo Pak-tuen outperformed more than 40 rivals but ultimately had to settle for second prize in a battle of the batons that concluded last night.

The 30-year-old, an IT professional and erhu virtuoso who is active among the city's community orchestras, also picked up the award for Outstanding Young Conductor in Hong Kong, the Audience Award and a cheque for HK$60,000 at the Second International Conducting Competition for Chinese Music.

Xue Yuan, 26, a graduate of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, was crowned the winner at the Cultural Centre's Concert Hall. He picked up HK$100,000 for his efforts.

Yao Shenshen, also from Shanghai, came third.

The competition, set up by the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra in 2011, aims to nurture young conductors who specialise in directing orchestral music on Chinese traditional instruments.

"The competition is a milestone for large-scale Chinese music that is unprecedented over the past 100 years," said Zhao Jiping, incumbent chairman of the Chinese Musicians' Association and director of the Xian Conservatory of Music, which co-organised the contest.

Xue, who trained as a pianist and a Western orchestral conductor, has previously been in command of the Shanghai Philharmonic and Zhejiang Symphony orchestras. In 2010, he founded the Rainbow chamber ensemble after finishing his studies with the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra.

Xue was among 42 contestants from countries including Britain, Russia, Italy, Poland and China whose conducting videos won them a place in the first round of the competition. Fifteen made it to the second round in Xian this month, where they rehearsed and conducted an orchestra in front of a panel of experts from Luxembourg, Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China.

Five hopefuls, including Sebastian Perlowski from Poland - the only non-Chinese candidate - then proceeded to the semi-final in Hong Kong last week.

At the final last night, the three finalists conducted the 85-strong Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra in performing two works, Moonlight over the Spring River, a compulsory piece, and another piece determined by drawing lots.

Xue eventually won over the judges, who voted unanimously for him to receive first prize.

As the winner, he conducted an extra piece, Zhao's Flying Apsara. He was also given the award for Best Interpretation of a Hong Kong Work and the Musicians' Pick.

The next competition will take place in 2017 with Taiwan's National Chinese Orchestra as co-host. Chen Tscheng-hsiung, a veteran conductor from Taiwan and chairman of yesterday's panel, expected there would be fierce competition from Taiwanese musicians. "They have three years to prepare and I am confident that you will see them throughout the event," he said.