Hong Kong top string player Andrew Ling says don’t worry, be happy ... with music
Philharmonic Orchestra member has put down the bow for the conductor’s baton at a prestigious competition in France
Ling, 34, one of the city’s top string musicians, has recently put down the bow to take up the conductor’s baton as a finalist at the 55th Besancon International Competition for Young Conductors in France starting on Monday.
“I have been preparing for it since I did not pass the preliminary round two years ago, so I must have made some progress given the same judges are in charge,” the Hong Kong-born violist said, referring to the biyearly contest with past winners such as former Boston Symphony Orchestra music director Seiji Ozawa and local conductor Yip Wing-sie.
Political and social tensions in Hong Kong in recent years have not caused Ling’s focus to waver, although he admitted that some issues did get on his nerves.
“I can’t say I am insulated from the divisions in society,” Ling said.
“But I am a professional musician. My job is to perform music for all to enjoy. How audiences take it is their own business,” he added.
He cited the controversy sparked by legislation in mainland China over the national anthem, criminalising acts of disrespect to the song. The law is expected to apply in Hong Kong, ruffling many feathers in a city already rife with political tension.
“To me, singing or performing the anthem shows basic respect to society – you don’t need to agree on everything about it, but it’s about the manner in which you do it,” he said.
Controversy also crept into Ling’s own orchestra when a member of the viola section was recently promoted to principal violist without the required advertisement or consultation. The move generated discussions on social media and among orchestra players. Ling declined to comment on the issue.
“Like society at large, there are things in life that one has no control of,” he said. “That’s where art is at its best – when those who find passion and indulge in music or other art forms can forget about life’s worries, even if just for a moment.”
As one of 20 finalists out of 270 entries for the competition, Ling conducted Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring as the first performance in the final round on Monday.
On Saturday, three remaining finalists will compete using works by French composer Debussy and Austrian operettas master Johann Strauss, among other pieces.
“I think Hong Kong musicians are highly adaptive to different cultures and very hardworking,” Ling said, referring to two other local finalists, Vivian Ip Wing-wun and Adrian Sit Ngai-cheung.
He added that after performers from Japan, China and Korea had taken the spotlight, he thought it was “time for us Hong Kong artists to present our artistic worth on the world stage”.