SINGAPORE - Singaporean conductor Darrell Ang has been tapped to head the the Sichuan Symphony Orchestra.
The 37-year-old, whose appointment as artistic director was revealed on Dec 19, says he feels excited and honoured to be tasked with bringing the orchestra from provincial level to international standards.
"I have the opportunity to shape this orchestra in my image," he says over the phone from Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province.
His appointment follows a push by the Chinese government to burnish Chengdu's musical reputation. There are plans, says Ang, to build a new 1,000-seat concert hall in the city centre that will be the orchestra's new home.
His role, meanwhile, is to bring the current orchestra up to the mark and recruit internationally renowned artists to add lustre to its first full symphonic season, which will be in August next year.
"It's the hardest thing I've ever done in my life," he says. "My Mandarin is terrible and I've had to get a grasp of the language very quickly."
The orchestra, which was founded in 2002, has performed in Tokyo and alongside renowned Spanish tenors Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras.
It is rare for orchestras in China to choose a foreigner as artistic director, says Ang.
The orchestra's general manager Mu Ling Hong says it was inspired by a CD recording of Ang leading the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in Zhou Long and Chen Yi's Symphony "Humen 1839".
Ang scored a Grammy nomination last year for the recording, making him likely to be the second Singaporean to receive a nod from the illustrious music awards.
Arun Shenoy's Spanish flamenco-inspired album, Rumbadoodle was nominated in 2012.
Ms Mu says in Mandarin over the phone: "The depth of his artistry and his conducting skills are world class. He also has a wealth of experience in leading orchestras."
Ang was previously young associate conductor of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO), and music director of the Orchestre Symphonique de Bretagne in north-west France from 2012 until last year.
SSO chief executive Chng Hak-Peng says of Ang's appointment: "It speaks to the international nature and great reputation of our classical music talent."