In six seasons, Jaap van Zweden has raised the profile of the Hong Kong Philharmonic, a profile set to rise further now that its Music Director is also at the helm of the New York Philharmonic. Their Ring Cycle, recorded over the past four seasons in Hong Kong, has garnered huge praise for the orchestral playing as well as van Zweden’s dynamic approach to Wagner’s scores. The 2018-19 season marks the orchestra’s 45th season, with a number of series encompassing classic masterpieces, star soloists, crossover and film scores.

Jaap van Zweden
© Hans van der Woerd

Mahler always encourages capacity audiences wherever his music is played, but two big HK Phil concerts next season offer the chance to experience the music from a different perspective. The Mahler $200 special project sees tickets for the Ninth and Seventh Symphonies on sale for a uniform $200 across the board (around £19), so the promoters are keen to encourage audiences to use the opportunity to sit somewhere different, to experience music-making from a different angle. Why not sit in the Choir Stalls and watch van Zweden from face on? Or pick the best Stalls seats for an unbeatable price (top prices in the season can stretch to $580, $680 or $780, depending on the concert category or series)? Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony also appears next May, a symphonic blockbuster where the orchestra is joined by the forces of the Netherlands Radio Choir and soloists Karen Cargill and Ying Fang.

Jaap van Zweden conducts plenty of concerts over the season, of course, with plenty of big symphonies on the menu, including Bruckner’s mighty Seventh, Rachmaninov’s romantic Second and Tchaikovsky’s fateful Fourth. At the more classical end of the spectrum, there are Mozart’s last two symphonies, where No. 40 is part of an all-Mozart programme which opens with Symphony no. 1. Van Zweden also conducts the Hong Kong première of John Corigliano’s First Symphony, written to commemorate three friends of the composer who died because of AIDS. Its opening movement, entitled “Rage and Remembrance”, sets the tone.

Alban Gerhardt
© Kaupo Kikkas

To mark its 45th season, the orchestra welcomes back former artistic and music directors Edo de Waart and David Atherton. De Waart’s programme includes the Chinese première for John Adams’ Saxophone Concerto where the soloist is Timothy McAllister, who gave the work’s first performance in Sydney in 2013. David Atherton’s all-British programme includes Benjamin Britten’s Violin Concerto – often neglected in concert halls, but a big, muscular piece definitely worthy of ranking alongside the Beethoven and Brahms concertos – where the soloist is Augustin Hadelich. Atherton also programmes Holst’s ever-popular Planets. Long Yu (Principal Guest Conductor) pairs a rare concerto with a concert classic: Samuel Barber’s Cello Concerto, performed by Alban Gerhardt, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s colourful Arabian Nights suite, Scheherazade. Yu also conducts a nearly all-Rachmaninov bill, where Haochen Zhang is the soloist in the First Piano Concerto.

Other star soloists featuring in the 2018-19 season are Evgeny Kissin, performing – for one night only – Liszt’s demonic Piano Concerto no. 1 in E flat major, preceded by Andris Poga conducting the same composer’s imposing tone poem Les Préludes. Khatia Buniatishvili – who often performs Liszt herself – turns instead to Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 20 in stormy D minor for her Hong Kong appearance.

Kari Kriikku
© Marco Borggreve

Antonín Dvořák’s Cello Concerto gets many concert performances each season, but its violin and piano counterparts are much rarer visitors to the stage. Gil Shaham brings the sunny Violin Concerto to the Hong Kong Cultural Centre next June, joining an all-Czech programme that includes Leoš Janáček’s Taras Bulba. Kari Kriikku gives the Chinese première of Magnus Lindberg’s Clarinet Concerto, a work written for the Finnish clarinettist in 2002. It’s a work requiring great virtuosity, yet is “unafraid to wear its heart on its sleeve”. The concerto is part of Osmo Vänskä’s “Finnish Adventure”, joining Sibelius’ epic Second Symphony and his stirring Finlandia.

There are a number of series running through the season: Silver Screen includes complete screenings of Star Wars Episodes 4 and 5, with live orchestra; Denim includes one of Philip Glass’ symphonic tributes to David Bowie; and Holidays features the Butterfly Lovers Concerto in a National Day concert. The Classics series includes a fascinating concert led by Jun Märkl which pairs Debussy and Ravel with works by Tōru Takemitsu and Takashi Yoshimatsu.

The Discover series includes a couple of crackers. Young recorder virtuoso Lucie Horsch joins the orchestra for a Baroque programme, while Hans Rott’s rarely heard Symphony in E major – which had a major influence on Gustav Mahler – gets an outing in the Tseun Wan Town Hall Auditorium under the baton of David Stern.

Whether discovering new works or revisiting classics, the 2018-19 Hong Kong Philharmonic season has plenty to offer.


Click here to view all the concerts in the Hong Kong Philharmonic's 2018-19 season.


Article sponsored by the Hong Kong Philharmonic Society Ltd