Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra

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Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra
HKPhil Logo.svg
Native name香港管弦樂團
Short nameHKPO, HKPhil
Former nameSino-British Orchestra
LocationHong Kong
Concert hallHong Kong Cultural Centre
Music directorJaap van Zweden

The Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra (Cantonese: 香港管弦樂團), commonly abbreviated as HKPO or HKPhil (Ccantonese: 港樂), is the largest symphony orchestra in Hong Kong. First established in 1947 as an amateur orchestra under the name Sino-British Orchestra (中英管弦樂團),[1][2] it was renamed the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra in 1957 and became a professional orchestra in 1974 under the funding of the government.


Sino-British Orchestra[edit]

Sino-British Club was an organisation founded in 1946, aimed at promoting harmony among different groups in Hong Kong (especially British and native Hongkongese) through cultural activities. Various groups were found under the club, including drama, literature, film, and music.

In 1947, Anthony Braga, one of the leaders of the music group of Sino-British Club, suggested to form a symphony orchestra to gather instrumentalists in the city and provide musical performance to the citizens, as the society was still recovering from the World War II. About 20 amateur musicians were found, and a chamber orchestra was formed quickly. Weekly rehearsal started in the summer.

Solomon Bard, a violinist who just finished his medical degree in the UK, returned to Hong Kong in the autumn of 1947, and was invited by Braga to be the conductor of the orchestra. Bard took over the orchestra, and conducted its debut performance on 30 April 1948 in St. Stephen's Girls' College.

Arrigo Foa[edit]

Bard continued his directorship of the orchestra after the debut. In 1953, Bard invited the Italian violinist and conductor Arrigo Foa to take over the orchestra, and Bard worked as the concertmaster and deputy conductor of the Orchestra.

Foa was a professional musician who joined Shanghai Municipal Orchestra as concertmaster in 1919. He succeeded Mario Paci as the conductor of the Shanghai orchestra in 1942, under the Japanese occupation. Foa migrated to Hong Kong in 1953 and led the orchestra immediately. He led the orchestra to play a critically acclaimed concert with pianist Louis Kentner.

Under the professional training of Foa, the orchestra improved rapidly, and gained a higher reputation in the city. Collaborating artists included pianist Julius Katchen and violinist Ruggiero Ricci.

Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra[edit]

In 1957, members of the orchestra decided to separate the group from Sino-British Club. As an independent organisation, the orchestra was renamed to the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, and registered as the Hong Kong Philharmonic Society. Most of the musicians remained, and Foa and Bard stayed on the same positions in the new ensemble.

In 1974, Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra became the first professional orchestra in Hong Kong, while the Sino-British Club dismissed in the same year.

The orchestra now gives more than 140 performances annually to an audience of over 180,000. International musicians who have collaborated with the orchestra in recent years include:

In addition to classical performances, the orchestra occasionally appears backing local pop stars such as Hacken Lee, Jacky Cheung, Frances Yip, Teresa Carpio, Leehom Wang and Hins Cheung.

Touring record[edit]

In February 1986, the HKPO made its debut tour of several cities in the People's Republic of China, with conductor Kenneth Schermerhorn and soloists Stephanie Chase (violin) and Li Jian (piano). In the autumn of 1995, the HKPO travelled to nine cities in the United States and Canada in its North American début under conductor David Atherton. In 2003, the orchestra made its European début with performances in London's Barbican Hall, Belfast, Dublin and Paris (Théâtre des Champs-Élysées).

The orchestra finished a five-country tour in Europe in 2015, with performances in London, Zürich, Eindhoven, Birmingham, Berlin and Amsterdam, as well as a filmed performance at the Musikverein in Vienna. In 2017, the orchestra toured Asia and Oceania with performances in Seoul, Osaka, Singapore, Melbourne and Sydney which received high acclaim;[3] and also performed a staged version of Die Walküre in the Beijing Music Festival with a co-production team from Beijing and Salzburg.[4]

Recording history[edit]

The orchestra made its debut recording under the label Philips in 1978. Its repertoire includes Butterfly Lovers' Violin Concerto and selected Chinese orchestral works, under the baton of Hans Gunther Mommer. In the 1980s, the orchestra made a serious recording for HK Records. Recordings were also made for the label Marco Polo after Klaus Heymann founded Naxos.

Under the directorship of David Atherton, several recordings were released on Virgin Classics and GMN. In 1997, the orchestra was featured in Tan Dun's album Heaven Earth Mankind: Symphony 1997 (Sony Classical Records), as a celebration for the handover of Hong Kong.

The orchestra started a four-year project in 2015, making it the first Hong Kong and mainland Chinese orchestra to perform Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelung. The four operas will be performed, one per year, in concert and recorded live for the Naxos label.

Each year the orchestra holds a crossover concert with selected cantopop singers. Live recordings are made after each production. Since the concert of Michael Kwan (conducted by Joseph Koo) in 1982, the most successful one has been the live recording of the concert with Jacky Cheung (conducted by Wing-Sie Yip) in 1996.

Performance venues[edit]

After the reorganization from the Sino-British Orchestra into the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra in 1957, the orchestra played the first concert in Loke Yew Hall, the University of Hong Kong. Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall was the performance venue of the orchestra in its early years. The orchestra was the first to perform in the Hong Kong Cultural Centre after the venue's opening in 1989, participating in the International Celebration of the Arts, which was a festival to open the centre. Since then, Hong Kong Philharmonic has been the most frequent orchestra to perform in the venue. The orchestra officially became the venue partner of Hong Kong Cultural Centre in 2009.

The orchestra also gives an annual outdoor performance, Symphony Under the Stars, Hong Kong's largest outdoor symphonic concert, which attracts thousands of participants every year. Venues include the Happy Valley Racecourse and the New central Harbourfront.


Sino-British Orchestra (1947–1957)[edit]

Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra (1957-Present)[edit]

Music Directors (amateur era)[edit]

Music Directors (professional era)[edit]

Conductor Laureate[edit]

  • 2000–2009 David Atherton

Principal Guest Conductors[edit]

Resident Conductors[edit]

Assistant Conductors[edit]

Associate Conductors[edit]


  1. ^ Chou, Oliver (26 June 2011). "And the bands played on". Post Magazine. South China Morning Post. Archived from the original on 12 February 2012.
  2. ^ Chu, Leon (23 July 2016). "百年神話是怎樣煉成的". 立場新聞 (in Chinese). Archived from the original on 17 September 2016. Retrieved 24 July 2016.
  4. ^ http://www.hkphil.org/eng/press/press_releases/2017/20171110.jsp

External links[edit]