Classical music in Hong Kong
“During the Second World War the Japanese army melted down organ pipes for military use. And many musical enthusiasts were in prison. There, they conceived plans for a post-war symphony orchestra of Western and Chinese members.” Reads the entry filed under Hong Kong in the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. The orchestra did succeed in launching as an amateur group after the war.
Back then, calling itself the Sino-British Orchestra, with a doctor at the conductor’s podium. But classical music was still struggling for airtime in Hong Kong. The orchestra was limited by the lack of proper performance venues, according to Raff Wilson, who served the HK Phil for six years as its director of artistic planning before recently joining the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
That changed when Hong Kong City Hall opened in 1962 to establish a community cultural center.
By 1974, the orchestra had changed its name to the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, and debuted as a professional group. The Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra followed a few years later, and the Cultural Center arrived in 1989.
As Hong Kong grew into an international financial hub at the end of the 20th century, arts and culture blossomed in this increasingly affluent city. ‘It was no accident that a well-resourced and professional orchestra was a priority,’ says Wilson. Degree-granting music programmes launched at the universities, and a fully-fledged conservatory launched in the mid-1980s at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.
Asia classical orchestra
The Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra (HK Phil) is recognized as Asia’s foremost classical orchestra. Presenting more than 150 concerts over a 44-week season, the HK Phil attracts more than 200,000 music lovers annually. Recently the HK Phil has been nominated for the prestigious UK classical music magazine Gramophone’s 2019 Orchestra of the Year Award – the first orchestra in Asia to receive this nomination.
The Hong Kong Philharmonic isn’t the only act in town. The Hong Kong Sinfonietta was founded in 1990 to bolster the classical music scene for Hong Kongers. And is now notable for having a female conductor, Yip Wing-sie, at its helm. The City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong followed in 1999. Great music, great place!
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