Orchestra's leader sacked after auditioning on sick leave

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 July, 2005, 12:00am

The leader of Hong Kong's flagship orchestra has been fired after he was seen auditioning in America for an orchestra while on sick leave.

Dennis Kim, concertmaster of the Philharmonic since 2000, left in May, one of two members to depart in similar circumstances in the first season of chief conductor Edo de Waart, which ended last week.

Viola principal Huang Hung-wei resigned last month after receiving a warning for auditioning overseas while on sick leave. Neither departure was officially announced.

'These are two unfortunate incidents,' said Tim Calnin, who was appointed chief executive last month.

'We were in a situation where we had to fire Dennis in a series of breaches of contract.'

Mr Calnin confirmed that Kim was one of three members not offered new contracts for the 2005-06 season, de Waart's second as the Phil's artistic chief.

According to an orchestra source close to Kim, the 28-year-old concertmaster was forced to resign for reasons other than his artistic ability.

The source said he had cut his finger, which had kept him from leading the orchestra in the Salome concerts last January.

He also had been criticised by colleagues and had haggled with management over extra performance fees.

'His heart being no longer with the Phil since February, Dennis was left with no other choice but to audition for other orchestras, including one in late April that unfortunately coincided with his performance as a solo violinist in the scheduled Mozart concerto with the Phil. His deed was the result, not the cause, of the problem,' the source said.

'He should have been fired long ago,' a principal player said, adding Kim's departure was a relief to many players who had never respected the concertmaster since his appointment by former music director Samuel Wong five years ago.

But Eric Sung, associate cello principal, said Kim's departure left him with no reason to stay. He resigned in March despite being offered a two-year contract.

'My decision is based on my personal loyalty to my friend, whom I have known for 14 years,' the Korean-American said.

Mr Calnin said the Phil would go without a concertmaster until the start of the 2005-06 season.

Until then it would be led by potential candidates who included Christine Sohn, from New York, on Saturday.