Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra spreads musical joy to mark HKSAR’s 25th anniversary
- Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (VPO) will enchant Hong Kong audiences with two concerts on October 24 and 25.
- As one of the signature events marking the 25th anniversary of the founding of HKSAR, the concerts will be broadcast live on various platforms, including digital ones.
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Making its first return to the city since 2011, the legendary orchestra will give two concerts at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, at the invitation of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) and the concerts are exclusively sponsored by The Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC). It is one of the many initiatives supported by the HKJC's approved donation of HK$630 million to the Government of the HKSAR to mark the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the HKSAR, demonstrating that the HKJC is resolute in pursuing its purpose of acting continuously for the betterment of our society, all in support of creating stronger communities together.
It took over two years - amid countless challenges - to make VPO’s live in Hong Kong a reality, said Fanny Au, Chief Manager (Cultural Presentations), LCSD. “We endeavour to present spectacular events in Hong Kong to celebrate the significant occasion of the 25th anniversary of HKSAR.”
The concerts will also mark the first time that one of the world’s foremost orchestras giving live performances in the city since 2020. Hong Kong will be the first stop of VPO’s Asia tour, which also includes Taipei, Kaohsiung and Seoul.
Under the baton of world-renowned conductor Franz Welser-Möst, the VPO will perform a selection of masterpieces of the Romantic period, showcasing the orchestra’s excellence and great tradition, especially in its interpretation of Austro-German repertoire. On October 24, VPO will present Wagner’s Prelude to Parsifal, Richard Strauss's Death and Transfiguration and Dvořák's Symphony No. 8 in G. The programme of the October 25 concert will be Brahms's Tragic Overture and Symphony No. 3 in F, as well as Richard Strauss's Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
The repertoire to be performed in these two concerts must have been well selected, showcasing what VPO excels, especially in its interpretation of big orchestral works of the great symphonic tradition. Both Brahms and Richard Strauss are featured composers in the forthcoming Hong Kong concerts. The two composers have been closely connected with the orchestra, conducting them on a number of occasions. Meanwhile, Richard Strauss’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra was made famous as its opening, which depicts sunrise, was used in Kubrick’s film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Hong Kong audiences will have the chance to listen to its entirety.
Making his Hong Kong debut in the two forthcoming concerts, Maestro Welser-Möst performs regularly with VPO. He has been the recipient of a number of major honours and awards including the Honorary Member of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna and the Holder of the Vienna Philharmonic's Honorary Ring, among others. He has twice conducted VPO’s New Year’s Concert and will conduct another one in 2023.
Established in 1842 in Vienna, VPO has been emblematic of European musical tradition and fascinated the world’s top composers and conductors.
A colossal, concerted effort
Given the pandemic’s volatility, a sense of uncertainty lurked among the various parties involved in bringing the orchestra to Hong Kong. Even in early 2022, LCSD thought it would be impossible. “Nevertheless, our minds have always been set on the VPO and we are determined,” said Au. “Securing the VPO’s upcoming performances in Hong Kong take a combination of the right time, right place, our united efforts and resolution.”
Au and her colleagues collaborated tirelessly with the orchestra’s agent, Beijing-based Wu Promotion, which in turn spared no effort in coordinating with the Asia tour’s organisers in Taipei, Kaohsiung and Seoul to work out the touring schedule. The upcoming performances in Hong Kong reflect the sincerity from all parties to bring musical bliss to the city.
In view of the pandemic control measures, the LCSD team worked, under immense pressure, to secure the venue, the coordinated schedules of VPO and hotel accommodations. It took many extra hours and rounds of negotiations to iron out the details of the arrangement agreed by all. Around 110 members of the orchestra, including musicians and administrative staff, will come to Hong Kong. The group of understudies is bigger than usual in case of unexpected needs.
Meanwhile the well-being of the concert-goers was not overlooked. “The musicians agreed to perform with their masks on, except the conductor and those in the brass and woodwind,” said Elsa Sheung, Senior Manager (Music), Cultural Presentations Section, LCSD.
Among the challenges was collecting the information of the musicians’ passports, vaccination records and other relevant documents. LCSD staff also liaised with the Immigration Department and the Health Bureau to facilitate the process, Tracy Ngai, Manager (Music), said. “The agent worked long hours to liaise with the musicians while they performed in Salzburg last August. They had to set schedules to collect the required documents. In Hong Kong and a race against time, we were responsible for checking the details (some in German) and updating them on the new entry requirements.”
Thanks to all the enthusiastic support from the music lovers in the city, the tickets of the two concerts sold out in one day. To enable as many as possible to enjoy this HKSAR 25th anniversary signature event, LCSD will provide live broadcasts on the RTHK Radio 4, RTHK TV32 and the LCSD’s Cultural Presentations Section webpage, Sheung said.
Two pre-concert talks (conducted in Cantonese) will be held at 6.45pm on October 24 and October 25 respectively, at the Foyer Reception Area, 4/F, Auditoria Building, Hong Kong Cultural Centre. Admission is free with limited seats available on a first-come, first-served basis and for walk-in only.'