Updated at 11:15am with comment from QPO’s executive director.
In a surprise move, the head of the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra (QPO) has announced her resignation this week, citing “persistent administrative difficulties and irreconcilable artistic differences” with management.
Korean conductor Han-Na Chang, 31, was the orchestra’s first female musical director and had held the prestigious position for one year. Her resignation in the middle of an international tour has come as a shock to fellow musicians.
This was the first time Chang conducted at the event, although she has played cello there in the past.
Chang is regarded as having been instrumental in succeeding to persuade the Proms organizers to allow the QPO to perform at the annual classical music festival at the Albert Hall.
Part of Qatar Foundation, the QPO was set up six years ago by QF chairperson Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, who said the aim was to spread an appreciation of classical music in the region and to act as a way of bringing Arab music to the wider world.
The orchestra’s Executive Director Kurt Meister regularly tours the globe, on the look out for young talent, and the orchestra’s 101 musicians hail from 30 countries.
Based at the Katara Cultural Village opera house, the orchestra performs twice a week seasonally, and also undertakes a number of international concerts each year.
In a statement issued yesterday, Chang announced her resignation, and said that due to “unexpected visa complications,” along with advice from the Italian Embassy in London, she would not accompany her 90 musicians to perform in a concert at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome today.
She will be replaced in Rome by Russian conductor Dmitrij Kitajenko, Classical Music Magazine said.
Chang went on to say that she has withdrawn from all further performances by the QPO. She added:
“It is a very sad day for me. Just over a year ago I was honored to take up this position. At that time I made clear my belief that the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra could become an international ensemble of excellence and I have had the privilege of seeing that belief vindicated through the skill, hard work and commitment of this wonderful group of players, culminating in the orchestra’s debut at the Proms yesterday.
I send my deepest thanks to everyone involved for what we have achieved together and I wish the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra all the very best for its future.”
A QF spokesperson confirmed Chang’s departure but did not comment further, but in a statement released today, QPO’s executive director Meister said:
“Qatar Philharmonic would like to thank Han-Na Chang for her work with the orchestra, and wish her the best for the future. We look forward to Dmitri Kitajenko and our orchestra sharing music with our audience at the performance in Rome this evening.”
It remains unclear who will conduct the upcoming performances QPO has scheduled in Doha.
Following Chang’s resignation yesterday, many in the classical music world have been expressing surprise on Twitter about the announcement:
this is most odd http://t.co/ljzXVhx5Qm … she seemed v. positive about future when we spoke on Saturday …
— Petroc Trelawny (@PetrocTrelawny) September 8, 2014
Just saw that my friend and colleague Han-na Chang has resigned as music director of Qatar Phil after just a year http://t.co/YnyZtWtEVV
— Finghin Collins (@FinghinCollins) September 8, 2014
— Tim Ashley (@TimAshAsh) September 8, 2014
Chang was the orchestra’s third musical director, succeeding Michalis Economou and Nader Abbassi, although QPO also works with a number of guest conductors.
She was one of just a handful of female conductors of symphony orchestras across the world, however in an interview she gave to Classical Music magazine last month, Chang was keen not to focus on her gender, saying:
“I try not to be a woman conductor, but a good conductor, with honesty and sincerity in my interpretations that I can share with the musicians.”