A private concert by the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra in Amsterdam has sparked debate on how arts groups that receive government subsidies should cultivate new fundraising avenues. Eyebrows were raised after it emerged that the musicians played at the event - allegedly a birthday party for the wife of Dutch engineer and businessman Gert-Jan Kramer, on March 6 - on the last stop of its European tour. An anonymous letter received by the Post claimed Kramer had long-term links to the Phil's music director Jaap van Zweden, as Kramer had served on the boards of orchestras Zweden had previously worked for, including the Amsterdam Sinfonietta and Dallas Symphony. Critics questioned why the orchestra had played at a private party and whether taxpayers' money had subsidised the event. When asked how much Kramer had paid the orchestra and whether it had breached any code of conduct, its CEO Michael MacLeod said the orchestra had not contravened any guidelines, but he refused to comment further as the board would meet soon to discuss the issue. Music critic Chow Fan-fu said the gist of the issue was not whether government-funded arts groups should stage private events, but how arts groups handled such situations. "It's not uncommon for orchestras to play at private events around the world, particularly in the US, where public subsidies for orchestras are little," Chow said. "If more arts groups in Hong Kong can increase their capacity to raise money from the private sector, this can ease the burden of the government in the long run." Chow said it was normal to offer performances or tickets to sponsors, but the orchestra should explain things clearly to the public. "Did an event like that allow the orchestra to meet new potential audiences? Did it allow the orchestra to meet new potential patrons?" A spokesman for the Home Affairs Bureau, which pays HK$334.6 million a year to nine major performing arts groups, including the Philharmonic, said the groups were allowed to take part in such events but had to charge full costs.