Francesco Lecce-Chong

Music Director & Conductor, Eugene Symphony
Music Director & Conductor, Santa Rosa Symphony

Biography

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, the Eugene Symphony and Santa Rosa Symphony, where he has been dedicated to innovative programming, commissioning new music and engaging in community outreach.

In the 18/19 season, Mr. 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 19/20 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, Mr. Lecce-Chong has swiftly made his mark in Eugene and Santa Rosa with a series of new music and community initiatives. Most recently, both orchestras announced Mr. 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. In addition, the Santa Rosa Symphony will present its first ever opera in concert during the 20/21 season under Mr. Lecce-Chong’s leadership. Mr. 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.

Mr. 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.

Recent News

Reviews

“Francesco Lecce-Chong, the young American conductor…made a first-rate debut with the San Francisco Symphony…There was no mistaking the vitality and brilliance of the music-making he drew from members of the San Francisco Symphony. He’s got a firm but flexible rhythmic control that allows him to shepherd an orchestra at top speed without losing a bit of precision, and he can shape big instrumental textures with a robustness and grace that is inspiring to behold. Perhaps best of all, Lecce-Chong seems to be a resourceful and imaginative programmer.”

Joshua Kosman

San Francisco Chronicle

“Lecce-Chong has the real gift. He’s going to be a fast-rising talent in the music world.”

Tom Manoff

Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). 

-San Francisco Classical Voice

Steve Osborn

“Lecce-Chong left no doubt that the magic of his debut [with the Santa Rosa Symphony] was no fluke. Even without a romantic warhorse like Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4, 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.”

– The Press Democrat

Diane Peterson

“Lecce-Chong’s concern for the Viennese style was particularly important with the last piece, Richard Strauss’s Suite from Der Rosenkavalier. Many American orchestras have difficulty with Viennese phrasing… In 15 years observing the orchestra, I’ve never heard the ESO perform with a true Viennese phrasing, melody somehow joyous and bittersweet, leaning here and there on melodic motives and chromatic lines. But on this night, Lecce-Chong brought Vienna to Eugene. Conducting from memory, he led his musicians with apparent ease, shaping lines, balancing timbres and cuing entrances with precision. There were lovely Viennese moments when he expanded a phrase’s rhythm, then pulled it back in. This was the conductor’s real interpretation of the work, not merely a reading from an orchestra he had just met.”

Tom Manoff