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HKPO Reaches New Heights in Attendance

12 June 2007

Hong Kong, 12 June 2007 – Dubbed "one of Asia's top orchestras" after a highly successful debut at the Shanghai Spring International Music Festival in May, the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra (HKPO), today announced its fourth season under the artistic directorship of Maestro Edo de Waart, highlighting 25 subscription programmes, featuring 45 different guest artists, soloists or groups.

"In Tune with the World" is this season's theme, signifying the Orchestra's search for excellence under the world-renowned conductor and orchestra builder Edo de Waart, bringing top international artists to Hong Kong and giving scintillating performances of the highest quality to its audiences.

Constantly striving for innovation and creativity, the Orchestra has reached new heights in artistic excellence and achieved box office and attendance records since Edo de Waart began as Artistic Director in September 2004. It gives nearly 80 public performances a year and the total paid attendance has risen from 60% to over 80%.

The stellar line-up of the 2007/08 season range from such international stars as soprano Dagmar Schellenberger, violinist Midori, flautist Emmanuel Pahud and pianist Yundi Li; to collaboration with local established and aspiring young artists, huqin player Wong On-yuen, tenor Warren Mok, violinist Li Chuanyun and pianist Aristo Sham; to a tribute to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

"Although 2007/08 is my fourth season as Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the Hong Kong Philharmonic, the excitement I feel whenever I conduct this impressive body of musicians is always growing. Our musicians have really exceeded my expectations over the last three seasons and I am thoroughly looking forward to our next series of musical adventures together," says Edo de Waart.

One of the greatest characteristics of this season is the introduction of the Swire New Generation Series which puts the spotlight on eight Chinese artists. The first in the Series, Beethoven x 5 Pianists, celebrates the younger generation of pianists from Hong Kong and Mainland China. Aristo Sham, Rachel Cheung, Wong Wai-yin, Chen Sa and Sun Yingdi will appear in a cycle of all five Beethoven Piano Concertos in two matinee concerts on Saturday and Sunday in September. Aristo, Rachel and Wai-yin are all top students of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, who have recently won first prizes at prestigious international piano competitions. Three other distinguished young Chinese artists, pianist Chen Weiyin, guitarist Yang Xue-fei and violinist Huang Mengla, will also appear in the rest of series.

"I'm delighted that Swire is a part of this exciting new programme, showcasing the talents of a rising generation of gifted young classical musicians – the future stars of the world's concert halls. We're proud to support the Hong Kong Philharmonic in its mission to nurture and encourage these artists both from Hong Kong and Mainland China and through their efforts, make classical music more accessible to a new young audience. It's our hope that the Swire New Generation Series will touch and enrich the lives of people from across the Hong Kong community, and China at large," said Christopher Pratt, Chairman of Swire Pacific Ltd.

In the last week of September, Edo de Waart has again assembled an international cast of singers for the biggest production of the season: the Season Opening Gala, Der Rosenkavalier opera-in-concert. Ever since Edo de Waart and the Hong Kong Philharmonic stunned local audiences with the first opera-in-concert performance of Salome in January 2005, followed by the success of Elektra and Madama Butterfly in subsequent seasons, Hong Kong Philharmonic's opera-in-concerts have become an annual fixture in the local cultural calendar. Tenor Warren Mok will also appear in the production this year.

In contrast to the shocking and violent Salome and Elektra, Der Rosenkavalier is Richard Strauss's most glamorous, entertaining and popular opera. It is a sweet tale of young love set against the backdrop of the exquisite drawing rooms of 18th century Vienna.

Headlining the cast is soprano Dagmar Schellenberger who is currently singing the Marschallin at the one of the top opera houses of today, the Vienna State Opera. Having recently made a stunning debut at La Scala with Ricardo Muti, the Marschallin is one of her signature roles, as well as the Wagner and Strauss heroines.

"I worked with Edo de Waart for the first time ten years ago in my first Strauss role in Arabella - a very important point in my career. Since then I have performed many concerts with him. Der Rosenkavalier is full of wonderful music and the meaning of the words is also incredible. I understand it very well because I am German," said Dagmar Schellenberger.

New and recent works by Chinese composers will also be featured this season. In a concert entitled The Two Concertmasters, HKPO's own John Harding will lead the Orchestra and two huqin soloists - the Concertmaster of the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra, Wong On-yuen, and his son, Wong Sun-tat, in the world premiere of And the Moon Winks… by local composer Chan Hing-yan. Following Edo de Waart’s critically acclaimed performance of Chen Qigang’s Iris Devoilee, which was performed as part of the New Vision Arts Festival last year, de Waart will again conduct another signature work by the same composer, The Five Elements.

The 25 programmes of the 2007/08 Season are divided into 7 subscription series, entitled Great Performers, Swire Maestro, Swire New Generation, Soundfest, Simply Classic, Mozart in the City and Specials, containing 3 to 5 concerts each. Patrons who subscribe by 16 July 2007 will get up to 30% discount and free Club Bravo membership, enjoying year-round privileges. Students, senior citizens (aged 60 or over), people with disability or CSSA recipients get a 50% discount - an additional 10% is offered if more concerts are subscribed. Programme details are available on HKPO's newly revamped website from 13 June. Brochures are also available at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, Hong Kong City Hall, and all URBTIX outlets.

The subscription concerts are a vital part of the Hong Kong Philharmonic's 44-week season. Yet the Hong Kong Philharmonic has even more to offer to the community of Hong Kong. "Being in tune with the world, the Hong Kong Philharmonic is devoted to bringing the finest artists and most inspiring music into our concert season, but being in tune with our city, we want to take musical excellence to the whole community. Last year, we flung the doors open as wide as possible with such projects as Symphony Under the Stars (a free, open-air concert attracting an audience of more than 20,000), free lunchtime concerts in Central and in the Museum of Art, pre-concert talks and Adult Education seminars and a schools education series in which 61,000 students participated – the most wide-reaching music education offered by any orchestra in Hong Kong," said Timothy Calnin, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Philharmonic.

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The Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra is rapidly emerging as Asia’s leading orchestra, since internationally renowned Edo de Waart joined as Artistic Director and Chief Conductor in the 2004/05 Season. Throughout the last three decades, the Orchestra has grown into a formidable ensemble of Chinese and international talents, attracting world-class artists to perform on the same stage. It gives over a hundred performances annually, many of which are highly anticipated events in the city’s cultural calendar. The Hong Kong Philharmonic reaches out to the community with such diverse activities as a comprehensive music-in-education programme for primary and secondary school students, performances at university campuses, an annual project with the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts to help nurture aspiring professionals, free pre-concert talks that provides in-depth knowledge of music and musicians and an open-air concert that gives the public free access to classical music.

The Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra is financially supported by the HKSAR Government.

SWIRE is the Principal Patron of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.