Turning 20 is a big deal for everyone, but turning 20 as an orchestra not only means that you have survived the first two decades, it also shows that you are going into the right direction and can “carry on with confidence” as the Music Director of the Hong Kong Sinfonietta, Yip Wing-sie explains in her introduction to their new season. It is a season to celebrate and shape the future of the ensemble, but also to look back and thank their audiences, artists, sponsors and collaborators for their continuous support.

Yip Wing-sie © Hong Kong Sinfonietta
Yip Wing-sie
© Hong Kong Sinfonietta

With two newly commissioned works the orchestra continues their mission to maintain the momentum of creativity. The French composer Tristan Murail – a student of Olivier Messian at the Conservatoire de Paris in the late 1960s – developed his own system of microcomputer-assisted composition by researching and analysing acoustic phenomena. His concerto for cello and orchestra, De pays et d’hommes étranges (From strange countries and men), is a co-commission with the Orchestre des Pays de Savoie and the Munich Chamber Orchestra and will see its Asian premiere in June with Jean-Guihen Queyras, conducted by the Hong Kong Sinfonietta’s Principal Guest Conductor Christoph Poppen. The programme further includes Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme.

The second premiere, a co-commission with the CBSO, Norwegian and Swedish Chamber Orchestras and the Radio France Festival Présences, is by the British composer Julian Anderson, a student of Tristan Murail. A former Composer in Residence at Wigmore Hall, he is not only well known in London, but outside the UK’s capital as well, with close associations with The Cleveland Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra and numerous other prestigious orchestras. His new work Litanies is for cello and orchestra as well, this time with Alban Gerhardt, a soloist known for his “rich tone and nuanced phrasing”. The March 2020 concert also sees a work by next season’s anniversary composer: Beethoven’s Third Symphony.

Hong Kong Sinfonietta’s Cellomania further includes a recital with Jean-Guihen Queyras, pairing three of Bach’s Cello Suites with three contemporary works by Gilbert Amy, Misato Mochizuki and Ichiro Nodaira respectively, and Pablo Ferrández playing Antonín Dvořák’s Cello Concerto, conducted by Ryusuke Numajiri.

Alban Gerhardt © Kaupo Kikkas
Alban Gerhardt
© Kaupo Kikkas

In 2005, the Hong Kong Sinfonietta commissioned the project A Soldier’s Story that sees its fifth revival this season. To the music of Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale, the choreographer Yuri Ng brings to life the fateful encounter between a soldier and the devil, forcing him to choose between his soul or wealth and glory. Together with a performance of Mozart’s Violin Concerto no. 5 by Taiwanese violinist Tseng Yu-chien and the world premiere of Hong Kong composer Daniel Lo’s Autumn Rhythm, this unique crossover production tours to Taipei, Taichung and Tokyo in autumn.

Beethoven the Immortal headlines two concert March 2020 in which the Honk Kong pianist Colleen Lee plays the Third and Fifth Piano Concerto respectively. Jason Lai further conducts Beethoven’s Fifth and Seventh Symphony and the Coriolan Overture to celebrate the Beethoven Year 2020.

Speaking of Great Concertos, three remarkable soloists have been invited as icing on the Hong Kong Sinfonietta’s birthday cake. Denis Kozhukhin – a pianist of "astonishing power and brilliance" – plays Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto in August, one of the most difficult and challenging pieces of the standard piano repertoire. The Hong Kong conductor Ken Lam, who is currently Music Director of both the Charleston and Illinois Symphony Orchestra, completes the programme with Haydn’s “Il distratto” symphony and the Asian premiere of Alfred Schnittke’s Polyphonic Dances. The rising star Fumiaki Miura, who has been mentored by Pinchas Zukerman since he was 16 years old, plays Beethoven’s Violin Concerto under the baton of Dawid Runtz, winner of the 3rd Prize and Audience Prize of the First Hong Kong International Conducting Competition in 2018. The programme in September further includes Brahms’ Second Symphony and Andrzej Panufnik‘s Lullaby. Last but not least, the Russian pianist Pavel Kolesnikov plays Chopin’s Second Piano Concerto whose score “glitters and glows, particularly in Kolesnikov’s forbearing hands.” With the Leonore Overture no. 3, Music Director of the Hong Kong Sinfonietta, Yip Wing-sie, conducts another tribute to Beethoven.

With the HKS Cool Summer Festival exploring the brass repertoire, in particular for tuba, and a Very Best of McDull concert featuring their mascot and local piglet McDull, concerts for families and younger audiences as well as chamber music concerts and the Hong Kong International Conducting Workshop, it is truly a season for everyone. Happy Birthday!

Click here to see the full season listings.

This preview is sponsored by the Hong Kong Sinfonietta.