The city's flagship orchestra is ushering in a new era that will feature more than a change of music director: it is looking forward to securing a new resident conductor and a full chorus. The Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra yesterday launched the inaugural year of musical chief Jaap van Zweden along with its announcement of the 2012-13 season starting in September. 'My inaugural season ... offers me an opportunity to capitalise on the strengths, finesse and agility of a terrific orchestra and to set out my vision for an orchestra in a vibrant Asian city in the 21st century,' said the 51-year old maestro, who replaces Dutch compatriot Edo de Waart after eight years. Now leading the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, van Zweden will conduct only six programmes out of the scheduled 34, compared with 12 in Dallas for the next season. 'A conductor like Jaap is normally booked up two to three years ahead of time, so we are lucky to have any concerts with him,' said Michael MacLeod, the Phil's chief executive, adding that much of the new season's programme was planned without van Zweden. Board chairman Y. S. Liu said that in the first year of van Zweden's four-year contract he 'will work on what we have and will try to build to a higher level in his second year'. Apart from guest artists including violinist Anne Sophie Mutter and pianists Yundi and Lang Lang, the orchestra will launch its own chorus in The Messiah at Easter next year. MacLeod said: 'We hope to expand the symphonic repertoire that involves a chorus by using local singers instead of bringing in choruses from other parts of the world.' He expects to audition hundreds of local choristers. The budget for the chorus has been made possible by a recent 10 per cent, or HK$6 million, increase in annual government subsidy. Liu confirmed that Perry So would not continue as associate conductor, based on mutual agreement. 'Perry will relocate to Russia, so we are looking for a Hong Kong-based resident conductor who can lead the orchestra in education outreach concerts or last-minute stand-in if circumstances require,' Liu said. Van Zweden's inaugural concert on September 28 will be a double bill, celebrating his directorship and the October 1 national day. For that he has commissioned 18-year-old Chinese-American Conrad Tao to compose a new work.