Maestro move: Spain picks a Hong Kong conductor

Maestro move: Spain picks a Hong Kong conductor


norman lebrecht

May 20, 2022

The Navarra Symphony Orchestra has appointed Perry So as its music director, from September.

So, 40, was formerly associate conductor with the Hong Kong Philharmonic in increasingly difficult circumstances.




  • FrauGeigerin says:

    Good choice: someone with no connections with Spain and the local community (remember, the Navarre Orchestra is a provincial orchestra that has strong ties withtth#e local community), in a country where >70%of the music directors are foreigners…

    But the truth is that management agencies are so powerful, and they like to use Spanish provincial orchestras to season their conductors…

    • Navarro.como.san.Ignacio says:

      Where did you get that percentage? Do you know it or you just invented it?

      • FrauGeigerin says:

        Read it somewhere (maybe on SD). And it seems to be correct information.

      • Hispa-vox says:

        76% of all principal conductors of the main Spanish orchestras:

        1. Orquesta Nacional de España – David Afkham (German). Luis Toro (Chile), Assistant conductor
        2. Orquesta Sinfónica de Euskadi – Robert Treviño (USA)
        3. Orquesta Sinfónica de Bilbao – Erik Nielsen (USA)
        4. Teatro Real (Orquesta Sinfónica de Madrid) – Ivor Bolton (UK)
        5. Orquesta Sinfónica de Barcelona – Ludovic Morlot (France). Principal guest conductor Marta Gardolińska (Poland)
        6. Orquesta de la Comunidad Valenciana (Les Arts) – James Gaffigan (USA)
        7. Orquesta de Castilla y León – Andrew Gourlay (UK). Principal guest conductor Eliahu Inbal (Israel)
        8. Orquesta de la Comunidad de Madrid – Marzena Diakun (Poland)
        9. Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia – Dima Slobodeniouk (Russia/Finland)
        10. Real Filharmonia de Galicia – Paul Daniel (UK). Christoph König (Germany), Joana Carneiro (Portugal), principal guest conductor.
        11. Real Orquesta Sinfónica de Sevilla – John Axelrod (USA)
        12. Orquesta Sinfónica de Navarra – Perry So (USA)
        13. Orquesta de Valencia – Alexander Liebreich (Germany)
        14. Orquesta Filarmónica de Gran Canaria – Karel Mark Chichon (UK)
        15. Orquesta de RTVE – Christoph König (Germany)
        16. Orquesta del Principado de Asturias – Nuno Coelho (Portugal)
        17. Orquesta de Córdoba – Carlos Domínguez Nieto (Spain)
        18. Orquesta Ciudad de Granada – Lucas Macías (Spain). Christian Zacharias (Germany), principal guest conductor.
        19. Orquesta Región de Murcia – Virginia Martínez (Spain)
        20. Orquesta Sinfónica de Tenerife – Antonio Méndez (Spain)
        21. Orquesta de Extremadura – Andrés Salado (Spain)

        • Rodrigo says:

          This is out of date, Hispa-vox. John Axelrod left Sevilla a few years ago as did Andrew Gourlay & Eliahu Inbal with OSCYL. All 3 are long gone.

          At a glance I see that you’ve left out the orchestras of Baleares (Pablo Mielgo), Valles (Xavier Puig), Malaga (Jose Maria Moreno), & Liceu (Josep Pons). They are significant full time Spanish orchestras & all 4 music directors are Spanish. You can check the orchs. at the AEOS site:

          Many Spanish conductors are busy being music directors in other countries which is why they are not on your list.

    • Robertomaldonado says:

      It is 100% true that most conductors in Spain are foreigners, but so are in Austria or Belgium. So what?

    • MrMusician says:

      It is true that almost 80% of the music directors in full time professional orchestras in Spain have a non-Spanish principal conductor or music director (I have read about that on Facebook and other forums), but I am sure in many other countries that number is the same.

      To season the conductors….It is also true that it seems a new trend that the first full time music director position for many new and up-coming non-Spanish conductors is in Spanish provincial orchestras (it was the the case for our last two conductors, both non-Spanish)… which is in itself not a bad thing at all for orchestras! It is a great way to get great talent before it becomes “too expensive” as the career of the conductor develops.

      On the other hand, truth be told, as a musician working in Spain (though not a conductor) there is a tendency here to hire foreigners over locals, with the silly idea that whatever is ‘imported’ is always better.

      • Rodrigo says:

        Yes, it once was true in Spanish regional orchs. that foreigners might be given preference over Spaniards, but definitely not the case now. There are just too many top notch young Spanish orch players out of work & a strong sense of nationalism to hire home grown talent. There’s not much need for foreign players even in the regional orchs. now.

        The most desireable big city Spanish orchs are almost all Spanish, except OBC & maybe some old timers in Bilbao. That’s always been the case.

        Foreigners and women are more represented in the lesser paying, less prestigious regional Spanish orchs. There was a study from the Universidad de Complutense in Madrid documenting that.

    • martinsd says:

      He can learn Spanish or Basque or whatever is spoken there. And he can learn about the community. But if he can’t conduct….

    • Rodrigo says:

      Spanish provincial orchestras play at a very high level. Often better than the well known orchestras the agencies might ultimately be hoping for.

  • Nick says:

    I cannot understand why the comment under the heading refers to “increasingly difficult circumstances.” Edo de Waart had been Music Director since 2004 when he really started the major development of the Hong Kong Philharmonic that was continued in 2012 by Jaap Van Zweden. The troubles with that Orchestra were in the pre-de Waart years under a very sub-standard MD.

    As I understand it Perry So was particularly well thought of. He’d been a Dudamel fellow with the LA Phil and has since conducted that Orchestra a few times.