Hong Kong Philharmonic now a world-class orchestra

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 December, 2016, 4:33pm
UPDATED : Friday, 30 December, 2016, 8:17pm

In spite of the arguments put forward by Michael MacLeod, chief executive of the Hong Kong Philharmonic, in his letter (“Visit of Berlin Philharmonic is a rare treat”, December 23), I support wholeheartedly Alex Lo’s column (“A cold shoulder for the HK Philharmonic”, December 19).

Lo rightly argues that no other orchestra, however illustrious, could be more suited than our own flagship orchestra to mark the 20th anniversary of the Hong Kong SAR. As Lo says, it has now been transformed into a world-class orchestra led by one of the most sought-after conductors. And a significant part of that transformation has taken place during the 20 years of the SAR’s development.

Not every field of development in Hong Kong has been so successful and the Hong Kong Phil is a glorious reminder that the city has more uplifting stories to tell than the often depressing reports making headline news.

Hong Kong prides itself as a city in which Asian and Western traditions meet and enrich each other. That is one of the many reasons why so many immigrants from the West (such as myself) love it and now regard it as home. Recently I heard the orchestra playing Mahler’s’ “Mighty Third” symphony and thought briefly from this perspective.

The Hong Kong Phil is composed of members from all parts of the world and I have not come across any other major orchestra which combines so beautifully the skills of musicians from so many diverse backgrounds. “Unity with diversity” is a common motto here and in the Hong Kong Phil, we have a perfect illustration of how this aim can become reality.

The performance of Mahler’s Symphony No 3 was an unforgettable event. It lasted almost 11/2 hours with no break but through the genius of Jaap van Zweden and the players, time seemed to be suspended.

Looking around the audience, I saw no signs of people flipping distractedly through their programmes or secretly checking their smartphones for messages.

The final movement is an extended portrayal of love and harmony.

In the context of all the unpleasantness that currently characterises much of public (or rather: publicised) life in Hong Kong, I found this aspect immensely moving.

For me, this performance by the Hong Kong Philharmonic will stay with me as the perfect way to mark 20 years of the Hong Kong SAR. If only it could be repeated on June 30.

William Littlewood, Sha Tin