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Tarmo Peltokoski is new music director of Hong Kong Philharmonic

The music news of the week is that Filipino-Finnish conductor Tarmo Peltokoski as the 9th and the youngest music director designate of the Hong Kong Philharmonic (HK Phil).

Jul 6, 2024

Pablo A. Tariman


6-minute read

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Tarmo Peltokoski (left) and David Cogman, chairman of the board of the HK Phil, sign the contract that makes the Filipino-Finnish conductor music director designate. Photo by Enid Tsui.

The music news of the week is that Filipino-Finnish conductor Tarmo Peltokoski as the 9th and the youngest music director designate of the Hong Kong Philharmonic (HK Phil).

“I am delighted to welcome Maestro Peltokoski as the next music director of the HK Phil,” said HK Philharmonic’s chair of the board and Music Director Search Committee David Cogman in a press release. “He is a remarkable and visionary musician, and we are very fortunate that he will write the next chapter in our orchestra’s history. The Board of Governors is tremendously excited by the orchestra’s future under the leadership of such an outstanding conductor.”

The Filipino-Finnish conductor said he was honored and thrilled to be named music director of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.  “After being highly impressed by the orchestra last year, I knew this would be a long-lasting relationship. The HK Phil is surely one of the absolute top orchestras in Asia. I am very much looking forward to lots of inspiring music-making with the brilliant HK Phil musicians in the years to come,” he added.

Peltokoski will hold the music director role for a four-year term, after serving as music director designate during the 2025/26 season.

He succeeds Jaap van Zweden in the role becoming HK Phil’s 9th  music director.

Peltokoski made his debut with the HK Phil season finale concert in June last year.

Tarmo Peltokoski with Hong Kong Philharmonic. The admiration between conductor and orchestra members is mutual.

Meanwhile, the Filipino-Finnish conductor will guest conduct the orchestra during the weekend for another engagement with HK Phil July 5 and 6 in a program consisting of Prokofiev’s Second Piano Concerto and Mahler’s Fifth Symphony.

Peltokoski is not the first conductor with Filipino roots to work with HK Phil.

The late violinist and PPO and MSO conductor Basilio Manalo served as associate concertmaster of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra in 1980 performing under Maestro Ling Tung.

A frequent soloist in the 80s and 90s is pianist Cecile Licad who debuted with the HK Phil in the Hong Kong Arts Festival in the 80s performing Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 and later Chopin No. 1 to great reviews.

Cecile Licad: one of Hong Kong Philharmonic favorite soloist in the 80s. Video clip from Licad’s You Tube channel.

Hong Kong critic Harrison Ryker reported after Licad’s maiden engagement with HK Phil: “The star of last weekend’s Hong Kong Philharmonic concerts was a young Filipina pianist Cecile Licad. She played the very familiar First Tchaikovsky Concerto – a work which requires both tremendous virtuoso skill and a strong personality as well. She has both and surely this is one of the most memorable performances of the work that one is likely to come across in many, many moons.”

Licad turned down an invitation to judge in the Chopin Competition in the 90s as the jury work fell on the day of her HK Phil engagement.

In 2017, one of the appointed assistant conductors of HK Phil with a series of special concerts at the Hong Kong Cultural Center was Filipino conductor Gerard Salonga who is now with the Malaysia Philharmonic Orchestra.

The contract signing between Peltokoski and HK Phil at the Hong Kong Cultural Center was attended by HK Phil’s Board of Governors and orchestra musicians along with James Tong, Director, Group Public Affairs of John Swire & Sons (H.K.) Limited, which represents the Principal Patron of the HK Phil.

For the record, Peltokoski is also music director designate of the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse in the 2024/25 season.

In 2022, he was appointed principal guest conductor of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, the first appointment of its kind  in the orchestra’s 42-year history.  He also started as music and artistic director of the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra in the 2022/23 season. On top of that, he was also named principal guest conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra.

In the spring of 2025, he will tour Germany with Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse, and make debuts with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Bayerisches Staatsorchester, and Japan’s NHK Symphony.

A graduate of the Sibelius Academy, Peltokoski was first heard in Manila in 2019 in a Philippine debut with the Manila Symphony Orchestra at age 19. His soloist in the Sibelius violin concerto was the then 15-year old Jeanne Marquez.

The Filipino-Finnish conductor during his Philippine debut with Manila Symphony Orchestra with Jeanne Marquez as soloist at age 19.

One caught up with the conductor a year ago after his last Brussels and Rotterdam engagements.

He intimated one of his early memorable engagements was working with celebrated pianist Yuja Wang. He said he really got along well with the celebrity of the hour.

“We had five fun days together. I guess it helped that I am a pianist, I’ve always felt close to Rachmaninoff’s music and we had especially good time playing encores together. Her pianistic ability is of course from another planet and this was something that I’ve been dreaming about for years. Never would’ve guessed that it’d happen so soon.”

He shared a key to a good, consistent performance:

“My teacher Jorma Panula and many before him have put it simply: there are only three rules: study scores, study scores, and study scores. Of course, it doesn’t end there. One also has to conduct and rehearse well.”

A curious question: what is the Filipino in him?

Said the young maestro: “I spent my childhood eating rice.”

(Tarmo Peltokoski will lead the HK Phil in its season opening concert on September 6, 2024 in a program consisting of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, WAB 109 and Sibelius’s Violin Concerto in D Minor, op. 47 with Daniel Lozakovich as soloist.)

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