Violinist Pinchas Zukerman teams up with his cellist wife Amanda Forsythe in a double concerto treat for the orchestra's gala fund-raiser ATTRACTING BIG NAMES in the international music world can be quite a challenge, even a frustrating exercise, for a relatively small orchestra such as the Hong Kong Sinfonietta. This makes it especially sweet when the ensemble is able to secure the services of distinguished musicians such as violinist Pinchas Zukerman and pianist Howard Shelley. Both artists will be performing with the orchestra in June and July respectively. Slowly but surely the Hong Kong Sinfonietta has been building up a presence and a reputation over the years, here and abroad. Much of the credit for its development and success goes to its music director and conductor Yip Wing-sie, whose musicianship, enthusiasm and drive have earned her the respect of her peers and the growing list of international celebrities who have worked with her and the orchestra. The Israeli-born violinist and conductor Zukerman, who is also music director of the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Canada, will be in town next month for a gala concert (June 14) to raise funds for the Hong Kong Sinfonietta. Each year the orchestra receives a grant of $10million from the Arts Development Council, but the money covers only about half of what the ensemble needs to survive. Private donations and invitations to team up with other ensembles such as the Hong Kong Ballet and Opera Hong Kong help to generate extra revenue, but it is the annual gala concert that is the chief fund-raiser. This year, the Hong Kong Sinfonietta hopes to attract $2 million, double the sum made at last year's gala. Pinchas Zukerman, who last appeared in this city in 1988 in a solo recital at the Hong Kong Arts Festival, is a much-loved name among classical music lovers. 'He is a fantastic player of the viola and the violin, and a great conductor,' Yip said. 'People who really want to see this concert are probably my age and aware of his playing in the mid-1980s, when he made a lot of CDs.' The gala concert programme includes the Overture to Mozart's opera Cosi Fan Tutte, the Mozart Violin Concerto No5 in A, and the Brahms Concerto for Violin and Violoncello in A minor. Discerning concert-goers might raise their eyebrows slightly at the pairing of the very different styles of Mozart and Brahms in the same programme, but there was a reason for this. When the Sinfonietta discovered that Zukerman's wife, the cellist Amanda Forsythe, would be touring with him, they suggested she join him on stage. The Brahms double concerto fitted the bill perfectly. 'We loved the idea of having him on stage with his wife, so we chose those concertos,' said Yip, who added that the orchestra was in 'good shape' and that she was confident it would be a memorable evening for all. When pianist Howard Shelley joins the Hong Kong Sinfonietta in July, he will be making his Hong Kong debut as a conductor. In one work, a Mozart piano concerto, he will be conducting the orchestra from the piano. The programme includes Mendelssohn's Fingal's Cave Overture, Mozart's Piano Concerto No22 in E flat, K482, and Schubert's Symphony No9 in C.