The Singaporean Chief Conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra, Kahchun Wong (33), has been conferred the Order of Merit by the Federal President of Germany on 10 December 2019 for his dedicated service and outstanding achievements in Singaporean-German cultural relations and the advancement of German music culture abroad.
Wong is the youngest Singaporean and also the first artist from Singapore to have received this prestigious award. Dr Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Federal President of the Federal Republic of Germany outlined the partnerships forged during Wong’s career between the two countries and honoured his contributions towards cultural exchange as a bridge builder in his Laudatio for Wong: “ There is hardly a more beautiful story from the treasure trove of the multi-faceted connections between Singapore and Germany than that of yours, Mr Wong.”
Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, commented on this special honour as follows: “”My congratulations to Kahchun on this award. Through his love for music, he has made significant contributions to deepening cross-cultural ties between Germany and Singapore. He has also given back to society through his work to bring music to the less privileged. We thank the Federal Republic of Germany for honouring Kah Chun, and for its steadfast commitment to strengthening ties between Germany and Singapore. This award will also serve as an inspiration to all pursuing their dreams.“
Maestro Kahchun Wong himself said immediately after the ceremony: ”My love and admiration for classical music brought me to Germany. Here, my generous colleagues have taught me that the arts embodies inclusiveness and diversity - qualities which resonate with me as a Singaporean. I am proud to be deeply connected with these two countries that I can proudly call home, and I will continue to do my best in bridging cultures.“
The ceremony took place in conjunction with the on-going state visit by Singapore’s President Halimah Yacob, prior to the state banquet hosted by the Federal President in honour of her visit to ‘Schloss Bellevue’, the official residence of the Federal President in Germany’s capital, Berlin.
Kahchun Wong is an alumnus of both the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music in Singapore and the Hochschule für Musik ”Hanns Eisler“ in Berlin. He impressed the great Kurt Masur and became one of his last protégés, sharing the podium together with him in Leipzig, New York and Tokyo. His international career took off after he won ‘The Mahler Competition’ with close to 400 contestants. The competition, also known as the ‘Olympic Games of Conducting’, held by the world renowned Bamberg Symphony. Since then, he has been highly sought-after by renowned orchestras such as the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Czech Philharmonic, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, China Philharmonic and Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra.
Since 2018, he has been the Chief Conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra. In addition to subscription concerts at the Meistersingerhalle and international tours, he leads the annual ”Klassik Open Air“, one of the world's largest outdoor classical music events with more than 50,000 live audience and has been broadcasted on BR-Klassik and Channel 3SAT.
In co-operation with the German Embassy Singapore, he established ‘Beethoven im Garten’ as an annual inclusive concert series at the Botanic Gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Musicians from Germany and Singapore engage in a musical and cultural dialogue, playing side by side with each other to an audience consisting of thousands of heartlanders, many of whom are enjoying classical music for the first time.
Throughout his career, Wong has remained committed to giving back to society. Together with Marina Mahler, the granddaughter of Gustav Mahler, he co-founded ‘Project Infinitude', a programme that believes all children, regardless of their background, should have a right to encounter and enjoy music. He is currently into his 3rd year of collaboration with Child at Street 11, a non-profit child care centre at Ang Mo Kio.
Wong's upcoming performance highlights in the first quarter of 2020 include Beethoven's 9th with the Nuremberg Symphony, Mahler's 5th with the Japan Philharmonic at Suntory Hall, Bruckner's 9th with the Orchestre Nationale de Capitole du Toulouse, as well as debuts with the Detroit Symphony, National Centre for Performing Arts Orchestra in Beijing and at the Tongyeong International Music Festival in South Korea.
In Singapore, Wong is the recipient of the prestigious Lee Kuan Yew Scholarship (Public Service Commission), Young Artist Award and the Singapore Youth Award.
The Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany was instituted in 1951. It is the only honour that may be awarded in all fields of endeavour and is the highest tribute the Federal Republic of Germany can pay to individuals for services to the nation. In awarding the Order of Merit the Federal President wishes to draw public attention to achievements that he believes are of particular value to society generally.