Almost one year after Taiwanese conductor Lü Shao-chia was named principal conductor of Sonderjyllands Symfoniorkester of Denmark, another important appointment came last week. The Shanghai-born American-Chinese conductor Yongyan HU was named principal guest conductor of Norddeutschen Philharmonie Rostock in Germany.
The appointment makes HU the fifth Chinese conductor to have landed a regular conducting job with a German orchestra/opera, preceded by Muhai Tang, Lü Shao-chia, Wenpin Chien and Wangjin. On his inaugural concert on March 30th, he conducted some of his signature pieces: Bernstein’s West Side Story Suite, Prokofiev’s Suite from Romeo and Juliet, as well as the symphonic fantasy Farewell to My Concubine by GUAN Xia. The sold-out concert was repeated on the following two nights.
A Yale graduate, he was best known in China for being the music director of the Shanghai Broadcasting Symphony Orchestra since 2000. During his tenure he reinvigorated SBSO and cornered the flagship Shanghai Symphony Orchestra into oblivion. He lost his job in Shanghai after a coup in 2003. Critics attribute his success to unrestrained spending which leads to his final dismissal and the orchestra’s restructuring. SBSO was renamed Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra in April 2004.
After losing his battle in Shanghai, Yongyan HU was offered a job in Beijing. He is the founding director of EOS Orchestra affiliated to the Orchestra Academy of the Central Conservatory of Music since 2006. He was music director of Qingdao Symphony Orchestra in 2009 for a season, bringing the orchestra for a US tour including the Carnegie Hall and conducted an orchestra from Jiangsu province briefly. He fell out with both within a season or two.
He is referred to as somewhat the Benjamin Zander of China.