Singaporean Wong Kah Chun named chief conductor of Nuremberg orchestra

Singaporean Wong Kah Chun will be introduced to the Nuremberg audience in March next year.
Singaporean Wong Kah Chun will be introduced to the Nuremberg audience in March next year.PHOTO: ST FILE

Singaporean conductor Wong Kah Chun has been appointed the new chief conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra in Germany.

The 30-year-old will succeed British conductor Alexander Shelley at the start of the 2018-2019 concert season.

The regional orchestra, which was founded in 1946, performs about 100 concerts a year to a combined audience of more than 180,000.

It has been conducted by the likes of Richard Kaufman, who in 1993 won a Grammy Award for leading it in a recording of the theme from the television series, Beauty And The Beast.

Says Wong over the telephone ahead of a flight from London to Nuremberg: "I am honoured and humbled that they are entrusting their 100-year-old culture to me.

"There are only a handful of Asian conductors who have been picked to helm orchestras in Central Europe.

"To be ranked among them is a huge responsibility."

Wong turned heads internationally in May last year, when he became the first Asian to win the prestigious international Gustav Mahler Conducting Competition for young conductors in Bamberg, Germany.

The Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra's managing and artistic director Lucius A. Hemmer says: "We succeeded in signing a young conductor who is en route to international prominence.

"He will be able to particularly support us with his creative energy and immense musicality, continuing the successful artistic development from previous years."

Wong distinguished himself from a dozen other candidates for the position when he stepped in at short notice to lead the orchestra last October in a performance of Dmitri Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony.

He will be introduced to the Nuremberg audience in March next year with two symphonic concerts in the historic Meistersingerhalle, followed by the Nuremberg Classic Open Air Concert in August.

Besides developing the symphony's core repertory and ushering in a new concert hall after 2020, Wong also intends to further champion Asian composers, especially those from South-east Asia, and to promote music education.

Last year, he launched Project Infinitude, a four-month pilot project to give less-privileged children and special-needs communities access to music, in Singapore.

It is part of a global music education initiative with the Mahler Foundation, which is founded by Ms Marina Mahler, granddaughter of Austrian composer Gustav Mahler.

"I hope to bring that with me to Europe too," he says.

"It's important for an orchestra to stay relevant to its community."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2017, with the headline 'Wong named chief conductor of Nuremberg orchestra'. Print Edition | Subscribe