Classical music

Violinist picks up the baton in Vietnam after 37 years with Hong Kong orchestra

Fan Ting, who has been with Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra since 1972, will take up role of chief conductor of Saigon Philharmonic Orchestra

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 January, 2018, 8:50pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 January, 2018, 10:11pm

A loss for Hong Kong of the last founding member of the city’s flagship orchestra is a gain for Vietnam.

Fan Ting, a violinist with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra since 1972, will take up a new role as chief conductor of the Saigon Philharmonic Orchestra in Ho Chi Minh City.

“It will be a new chapter for me after 37 concert seasons as an orchestra player,” Fan, who quit Hong Kong Phil this month, told the Post.

“The Saigon orchestra of some 50 musicians is almost like Hong Kong Phil 40 years ago, with excellent players trained in France and Russia, but the group needs ensembleship to play together with articulation. That is the area I hope to contribute to.”

Born in Guangzhou, Fan, a violin prodigy, swam to Hong Kong in 1972 and studied under Lim Kek-tjiang, a violin master and then conductor of Hong Kong Phil. Lim named his young protege assistant concertmaster two years before the orchestra turned professional in 1974.

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He led the second violin section for years and his departure marked the end of the original roster.

“I am confident that my three decades of orchestral experience will be helpful in training and raising the level of orchestras such as the Saigon Philharmonic,” he said, citing his conducting experience with the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra he founded in 2003 and numerous school orchestras.

In his initial two-year term as conductor as well as board director, Fan is committed to building the Saigon orchestra – which consists of teachers at the Ho Chi Minh Conservatory under the Ministry of Culture – through fundraising and recruitment of local players.

“I don’t see any positive long-term impact for the orchestra in bringing in non-local musicians. Besides there is no budget for that,” he said.

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Fan’s inaugural concert in June will feature an all-Beethoven programme, including the Triple Concerto, which will see a reunion of the Canzone Trio formed by Fan with local cellist Ray Wang and pianist Tam Ka-kit in the 1980s. But it is Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony that will showcase the conducting skills acquired during his study at the Juilliard School under Jorge Mester.

A swap of positions from bow to baton provided him with a moment of reflection.

“I’ve come to appreciate the importance of getting full respect as a musician. We perform for the love of music and not for money or through fear,” he said.

“That is the ingredient that makes great orchestras such as the Berlin Philharmonic when their members play with pride, and that’s what I hope to share with my fellow musicians.”