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Francesco Lecce-Chong, Music Director and Conductor

Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony's fifth Music Director in 91 years, begins his first full season in October 2019. In addition to the 2019-2020 Classical Series concerts, he will conduct two summer 2019 concerts and a Santa Rosa Symphony Family concert on January 5, 2020.
"I think what I'm most happy with in our programming for next season," Francesco said, "is that with two world premieres of major orchestral works and the presentation of seven different living composers, we've clearly laid down the road map for how to keep our art form alive and relevant. We've done this by programming these less familiar works in ways that connect them with masterworks from the past. It's not about 'something for everyone' or winning an award for adventurous programming; it's that music from all eras communicates with us in important ways. I think these programs will inspire us not only through great music, but also provoke us to think more deeply about the essential nature of art and creativity in our lives. I think they will also remind our audience that "new music" is not a genre – by its very name, we cannot know what it will be and I believe these new works will surprise, delight and inspire in ways more powerful than any music from the past."
Francesco was one of five candidates who auditioned during the 2017-2018 season. The SRS Board of Directors selected him by a unanimous vote in the spring of 2018, after hearing the selection committee's recommendation. He conducted three of the Classical Series programs and one Family Series concert in the 2018-2019 season.
SRS Principal Oboe and Search Committee member Laura Reynolds said, "Francesco is an inspiring presence on the podium, with deep commitment to the craft and a musical sense, or spirit, if you will, that invites players into a collaborative space to create our sound. I very much look forward to working with him!"
In the San Francisco Classical Voice, after Francesco's debut concert as Music Director in October 2018, reviewer Steve Osborn declared, "His crisp and precise beat was easy to follow, and his technique was exemplary. He highlighted stark contrasts between the legato and staccato passages, he let the syncopations ring out, and his dynamics were clearly evident. Moreover, he achieved all of this with minimal movement. He leaned forward and crouched down as necessary, but he was never showy. In the third and fourth movements, he was electric." 
After his third concert weekend as Music Director in January 2019, Diane Peterson of The Press Democrat stated, "Lecce-Chong left no doubt that the magic of his debut was no fluke.  . . . he proved his mettle by pouring new life into Mozart’s tragic Symphony No. 40 and artfully molding the pacing and phrasing of Mahler’s idyllic Symphony No. 4."


American conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong has garnered acclaim for his dynamic performances combined with a deep commitment to nurturing the art form. Described by critics as a “fast rising talent in the music world” with “the real gift,” he has appeared with orchestras around the world including the National Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, Toronto Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, and Hong Kong Philharmonic while collaborating with renowned soloists such as Renée Fleming and Itzhak Perlman. Following successful tenures as Associate Conductor with the Milwaukee Symphony under Edo de Waart and the Pittsburgh Symphony under Manfred Honeck, he serves as Music Director for two North American orchestras, Santa Rosa Symphony and the Eugene Symphony where he has been dedicated to innovative programming, commissioning new music and engaging in community outreach.
In the 2018-2019 season, Lecce Chong debuts in subscription with the San Francisco Symphony, Colorado Symphony, Louisville Orchestra, Louisiana Philharmonic and Xi’An Symphony in China among others, while returning to conduct the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Milwaukee and San Diego Symphonies. The 2019-2020 season marks his debut with the New York Philharmonic. He is equally at home with opera repertoire, having built his opera credentials as staff conductor with the Santa Fe Opera and conducted Madama Butterfly at the Florentine Opera with the Milwaukee Symphony.
Following in the footsteps of renowned predecessors Marin Alsop, Giancarlo Guerrero and Jeffrey Kahane, Lecce-Chong has swiftly made his mark in Santa Rosa and Eugene with a series of new music and community initiatives. Most recently, both orchestras announced Lecce-Chong’s “First Symphony Project,” commissioning four major American orchestral works to be performed over the next four years accompanied by multiple composer residences and community events. Lecce-Chong is also committed to the training and championing of young orchestral musicians, having served as Music Director of the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra for three years and working with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and the New World Symphony.
Lecce-Chong is the recipient of several distinctions, including the prestigious Solti Foundation Award. Trained also as a pianist and composer, he completed his studies at the Curtis Institute of Music with Otto-Werner Mueller after attending the Mannes College of Music and Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Italy. He has had the privilege of being mentored and supported by celebrated conductors including Bernard Haitink, David Zinman, Edo de Waart, Manfred Honeck, Donald Runnicles and Michael Tilson Thomas.

All photos by Susan and Neil Silverman Photography

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