Hong Kong pianist at peace with controversial choice of Lang Lang for handover anniversary show

City’s taxpayers face HK$10 million bill for two concerts featuring mainland-born musician and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 March, 2017, 5:28pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 March, 2017, 11:38pm

Hong Kong-born pianist Colleen Lee Ka-ling is staying focused on her career and says she is at peace with the controversial pick of Shenyang-born Lang Lang to perform with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra to mark the 20th anniversary of the city’s return to China’s sovereignty.

“I know it was a hot talking point when the news broke last December but I really don’t feel anything about it,” she told the Post ahead of her performance on Sunday with the Hong Kong Sinfonietta. “I’m ready to play with any orchestra, if I get invited.”

Taxpayers will have to foot a bill believed to be pay more than HK$10 million for the two Hong Kong concerts on November 10 and 11. Critics have questioned the need for such a huge outlay when there was more than enough local talent.

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Box office concern was cited as one reason for the choice of Lang Lang, who became a Hong Kong resident through the Quality Migrant Scheme launched in 2006, to play with the Berlin band, which is widely regarded as the world’s best – and most expensive to engage.

Lee said: “I would think both concerts would be sold out regardless of the soloist, but then the orchestra would have a say in the choice of soloist.”

She received international acclaim when she won sixth place at the prestigious 2005 International Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw, where she was up against 300 of the world’s finest pianists. She studied in Germany from 2004 to 2013.

It will be the second time Lang Lang has performed at the city’s major anniversary event. He was the star turn in 2007 to mark the 10th anniversary, performing Ravel’s G Major Concerto with the London Symphony Orchestra.

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“Regardless of the arrangements, I’ll stay busy making music with local musicians plus teaching,” Lee said, referring to her performances in Finland with local cellist Trey Lee and his Musicus Society and in Vienna with her alumni at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts in April.

Lee will also perform the Ravel concerto on Sunday night. She was a featured pianist in a recording on Decca with the Sinfonietta in 2014 and toured Italy and South America with the orchestra in 2009-2010.

“I feel very strongly that I am representing Hong Kong on those tours, and there was very special chemistry when I played the Ravel concerto for the European audience,” she recalled.

It was also the Ravel piece that Lee performed with the Sinfonietta in Hong Kong Week in Taiwan last November. The entire programme, including a new work by University of Hong Kong professor and composer Chan Hing-yan, will be repeated at the City Hall Concert Hall on Sunday.

“As an artist, I don’t ask what others can offer me. I only ask what I can offer them,” Lee said.