BERLIN - Singaporean conductor Wong Kah Chun was conferred the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Tuesday (Dec 10), in recognition of his significant role in bridging the cultures of Singapore and Germany through music.
The Order of Merit is Germany's only honour that can be awarded in all fields of endeavour and is the highest tribute that can be paid for services to the nation.
Mr Wong, 33, has been the chief conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra since 2018 and is the youngest Singaporean and the first Singaporean artist to be conferred the Order of Merit.
He received the honour during a state banquet held at Dr Steinmeier's official residence, Schloss Bellevue, for President Halimah Yacob, who is in Germany for a five-day state visit.
"My love and admiration for classical music brought me to Germany. Here, my generous colleagues have taught me that the arts embody inclusiveness and diversity - qualities which resonate with me as a Singaporean," said Mr Wong in a statement.
He beat close to 400 competitors from around the world in 2016 to win first prize in the Gustav Mahler International Conducting Competition in Bamberg, Germany, regarded as the conducting world's Olympic Games.
"I am proud to be deeply connected with these two countries that I proudly call home, and will continue to do my best in bridging cultures."
Mr Wong was last in Singapore in October, when he wielded the baton in the annual Beethoven im Garten at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, which drew more than 7,000 people.
Dr Steinmeier pointed to Mr Wong as an example of how relations between Germany and Singapore can thrive on what individuals find fascinating about the other country, its society and culture.
"(Mr Wong) is someone who is drawn to and fascinated by German classical music, someone who keeps our culture alive and enriches it with his interpretations," said Dr Steinmeier.
"The manifold links between Germany and Singapore are shaped by such personal contacts."