Hoang Pham: My needs as a soloist

What to expect in the orchestra

Pianist Hoang Pham will perform at the Melbourne Recital Centre this week, backed by the Zelman Symphony. As a soloist, he tells us what he needs when preparing for a performance with an orchestra.


1. A highly competent orchestral manager

This person is very important as they work with you in organising the orchestra. In the case of my upcoming concert with Zelman Symphony at the Melbourne Recital Centre, George Deutsch is the main person I’ve been in touch with. I want to clarify that George works with a number of other committee members who passionately give their time to make the orchestra a success. So it’s always a team, but George is the main go-to person for me.

I trust that the orchestra is managed correctly. All rehearsal venues, setup for the day of the performances etc. are managed by George. Our work extends even into other elements such as organising marketing and discussing media interviews. It is really a team effort.

2. A sensitive and communicative conductor

Mark Shiell, who is the current artistic director of the Zelman Symphony, is wonderful to work with. For me, Mark creates an environment that is comfortable for the community orchestra and visiting soloist. I know that there are many ways to work and there are difficult personalities who can also extract wonderful things from a group of people. Still, I prefer a healthy working environment where people are confident to express themselves and to communicate and discuss openly their ideas and concerns. I feel that Mark has nurtured this positive environment with the Zelman Symphony.

Finally, communication and sensitivity are wonderful things but at the end of the day, it helps to simply get along with somebody who has similar musical ideas to you. And I’m glad that Mark and I have always hit it off on all our musical ideas.

3. Perhaps most importantly, a group of musicians who I feel comfortable performing with

I feel comfortable when I feel that everybody enjoys themselves, and that I’m not coming to a ‘work’ environment. I know it’s normal or necessary to deal with this sometimes, but I prefer to avoid it as much as possible. I want to come to an environment where everybody wants to be there and is grateful for being able to play great music.

It also helps that with the Zelman Symphony, you get around four to five rehearsals. I find this builds a relationship with the visiting soloist that you rarely get in more professional environments.

I’ve always enjoyed performing with community orchestras. There are many of them around, all run by lovely people who are passionate amateurs. Of course, not all community orchestras play to the same level as the Zelman Symphony: this is very unique. I feel comfortable with this orchestra because they play to a very high level but they maintain a relaxed and healthy working environment that encourages a high level of performance from visiting soloists. I suppose there is a degree of trust, through the orchestra and Mark Shiell, that they will be there for me on the stage and that they will also lift their quality of performance on stage. This is a good feeling to have!

Hoang is a Vietnamese-born Australian concert pianist named the 2013 ABC Symphony Australia Young Performer of the Year, and taking out the Best Australian Pianist title of the Sydney International Piano Competition, among other prestigious recognitions.

Watch him perform live with the Zelman Symphony on December 2, Melbourne Recital Centre.


Images supplied.

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