The local flagship orchestra's honeymoon period with its maestro is continuing into its second season with tours and a major anniversary event.
The Hong Kong Philharmonic opens its new season tonight under the musical directorship of Jaap van Zweden, who said working for six weeks and on six programmes a year, as compared with 12-14 weeks in normal practice, was not really a honeymoon for an orchestra.
"This year I will have nine weeks here, and with some touring, it will make a difference," said the Dutch maestro.
"Touring is important for the orchestra as we are together not just for a few hours a day, but day and night. It's a great way for us to work together and get to know each other better. If you want an international sound, you need to go international."
The Phil's tour to Taipei in December, and to Beijing and Shanghai in March will be the first time former violinist van Zweden has visited as a conductor. He said these tours, including a European tour in the future, would help improve the orchestra's international stature and make Hong Kong proud.
The new season also marks the orchestra's 40th anniversary. It turned professional in 1974.
Chief executive Michael MacLeod said a special heritage concert would be held on January 10 next year, the day of the anniversary, and another gala concert would be held in June.
"Although we have a number of starry events in the new season, I would like to think everything the Hong Kong Phil does is world-class, including our education programme," he said.
For example, when American conductor Lorin Maazel visits for two weeks in November, he will include a session with young musicians. In addition to performing Britten's War Requiem and his own arrangement of Wagner's Ring cycle, the former New York Philharmonic maestro will conduct a rehearsal session of Wagner's Meistersinger Overture with youngsters side by side with players of the HK Phil, MacLeod said.
This season also marks the final year of the 90 musicians' five-year contracts, which are due for renewal in February.
Addressing any concerns they may have, van Zweden said: "I hope everybody will stay or wants to stay. That's the main thing for a music director. I don't want a divided orchestra."
"If I can be of any help and if they need me, I will be there. But at the same time we need to balance everything to make this a healthy organisation."
The players are upbeat about their new maestro, despite his fewer-than-average weeks in Hong Kong, due to a concurrent position with the Dallas Symphony and guest conducting stints in Europe and America.
"Nine weeks with Jaap is like 16 weeks with anybody else," said timpanist James Bonzos. "He inspires and draws absolute focus from us and we play with intensity for someone we respect."