Action star Jackie Chan could one day take a break from performing in front of film cameras and appear on stage alongside Hong Kong Philharmonic if the orchestra's music director Jaap van Zweden gets his way.
The Dutchman is planning to build up the city’s flagship orchestra into a top cultural attraction in the city.
"How about we play Peter and the Wolf with Jackie Chan as the narrator?" van Zweden said. "My gut feeling tells me he would say ‘find me a date and I will come’."
Van Zweden said he hopes to organise the concert for the city’s handicapped people, including those who are bed-ridden, so that they also have the opportunity to enjoy classical music – “the food for the soul”.
He said: “We the Philharmonic are part of the community, which is not only made up of successful businessmen.
“Such a concert would enable those with special needs from Hong Kong to enjoy the music and see Chan in real life – something that he cares about as much as we do.”
Van Zweden has just committed himself to a further three-year term with the orchestra up until 2019, even though he is much sought after around the world.
The Dutch maestro will spend 11 weeks each year in Hong Kong; he also works for 12 weeks each year as music director of Dallas Symphony; van Zweden is also in great demand as a guest conductor in the world’s top orchestras, such as Vienna Philharmonic earlier this month, and Chicago Symphony and New York Philharmonic next month.
Van Zweden, asked why he chose to agree to a further three years with the Hong Kong Philharmonic, said: I want to make the Philharmonic sound like a top orchestra in the world.
“When I kiss my wife, I don’t look over her shoulder to see if there’s someone better around. So if Hong Kong says ‘yes’ to me, and I also say ‘yes’, that’s a musical marriage.”
He will spend those 11 weeks during the next concert season working on improving the orchestra.
Van Zweden said he was delighted by the government’s extra HK$6 million in funding, which will make it possible for six additional musicians to bring the orchestra’s number up to 96.
The extra four woodwind players, plus a trumpet and a trombone player – all paid for by a fresh $6 million the recurring government funds – mean the Philharmonic will be at its largest since the orchestra turned professional 40 years ago.
The conductor said the expanded orchestra will perform a series of exciting programmes with international renowned stars during the new this year-15 season.
Yesterday he revealed details of the programme, which will include pianist Yefim Bronfman, who was born in the former Soviet Union, but is now an American citizen, making his debut with the orchestra playing Brahms’ First Piano Concerto at the season’s opening concert in September.
Frank Peter Zimmermann, a world-class German violinist, will play Sibelius’ Violin Concerto when he partners van Zweden, whose former colleague at the Concertgebouw Orchestra, Herman Krebbers, was the violinist’s mentor.
“These star soloists only play with top orchestras in the world, and now they choose to perform with us, and we feel appreciated,” the Dutch conductor said.
Among the mainland soloists is violinist Ning Feng, who will play Beethoven’s Violin Concerto while touring seven European cities with the orchestra next February.
However, van Zweden says he always looks at performers’ musicality rather than their nationality.
“I think our featured soloists, Ning Feng, Lang Lang, and Yuja Wang, are the new generation of great players, and I am happy they come from this part of the world,” he said. “Even if Lang were from Rumania, that’s fine with me.”
The conductor said choosing the programmes for his third season with the Philharmonic had been a collective decision.
The return of veteran American conductor Lorin Maazel was a “special product” – funded by the Hong Kong Jockey Club; he will be leading the orchestra in performing all four Brahms symphonies and, with local pianist Rachel Cheung, a performance of Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy. There will also be youth programmes and a concert of local works.
However, van Zweden said he was most excited by one particular work, Das Rheingold – “music to die for” – which is first of the four-part epic opera, The Ring Cycle by Richard Wagner.
In concert format, the three-hour opera will feature a starry cast, including the renowned German baritone Matthias Goerne.
“I want to thank the government for its support; my extension of three more years here will enable me to complete the project,” van Zweden said. “We will deliver the highest quality of playing,” he said.
The 53-year-old conductor said the Hong Kong Philharmonic will be the last orchestra that he builds during his career. “After this, I will probably go to a really big one.”
Tomorrow and Saturday, Jaap van Zweden will conduct Bach’s St Matthew Passion with the Hong Kong Philharmonic, London Bach Choir, Hong Kong Children’s Choir and soloists at Hong Kong Cultural Centre’s Concert Hall, starting at 7 pm.
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