Francesco Lecce-Chong | IMG Artists

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, commitment to innovative programming and profound engagement in community outreach. In the 2017-2018 season Mr. Lecce-Chong was appointed Music Director & Conductor of the Eugene Symphony, following in the paths of renowned predecessors including Marin Alsop and Giancarlo Guerrero. In the same season, he became the winning Music Director candidate of the Santa Rosa Symphony, a post he assumes in 2018-2019.

In summer 2018, he concludes his tenure as Associate Conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra with an all-Brahms program. His previous posts include Principal Conductor of the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra and Associate Conductor of the Milwaukee Symphony under Edo de Waart.

Active as a guest conductor, he has appeared with orchestras around the world including the National Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, Toronto Symphony, Milwaukee Symphony, St. Louis Symphony and Hong Kong Philharmonic and collaborated with renowned soloists such as Renée Fleming and Itzhak Perlman. In the coming year, Mr. Lecce-Chong makes his subscription debuts with the Louisville Orchestra, Louisiana Philharmonic, Colorado Symphony Orchestra, and Xi’An Symphony Orchestra, as well as returns to the Civic Orchestra in Chicago and Milwaukee Symphony.

Mr. Lecce-Chong is equally at home with opera repertoire, having built his opera credentials as staff conductor with Santa Fe Opera and conducted Madama Butterfly with the Milwaukee Symphony at the Florentine Opera. In Europe, he took part in masterclasses at the Lucerne Festival under Bernard Haitink as well as with the Tonhalle Orchestra in Zurich. He has worked closely with a number of internationally celebrated conductors including David Zinman, Edo de Waart, and Manfred Honeck.

Also trained as a pianist and composer, Mr. Lecce-Chong champions the work of new composers and the need for arts education. As Associate Conductor of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (MSO), he curated and presented the works of both active and lesser-known composers, including two works commissioned by the orchestra, as well as two U.S. premieres. He also helped create the first MSO Composer Institute, providing performance opportunities for young American composers. Mr. Lecce-Chong has complemented his programming with a strong commitment to arts education for all ages. In Milwaukee, he provided artistic leadership for the MSO’s nationally lauded Arts in Community Education program–one of the largest arts integration programs in the country. His dedication to connecting orchestras and communities continues in Pittsburgh where he gives preconcert talks, conducts concerts for school audiences, and leads specially designed sensory-friendly performances.

Mr. Lecce-Chong is a native of Boulder, Colorado, where he began conducting at the age of sixteen. He is a graduate of the Mannes College of Music and Curtis Institute of Music, where he studied with Otto-Werner Mueller.

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Recent News

Reviews

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

Tom Manoff

“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

More Reviews

“Conducting without a score, Lecce-Chong led a beautifully shaped performance of the single-movement piece. From the warm sounds of the middle and low strings with which the piece opens, he and the orchestra found the musical core of the piece’s many moods, moving easily through its frequent transitions.”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel  – (Apr 22, 2016)

“Conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong led a deeply moving performance of the piece, allowing its meditatively repetitious lines to build slowly. He used gradual dynamic changes to lead the audience to what proved to be deeply poignant harmonic shifts within the piece.”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – (Nov 14, 2015)

“The second half of the program was devoted to what proved to be a glowing performance of the Tchaikovsky symphony. Lecce-Chong, who conducted without a score, and the players brought a huge palette of colors; exquisite phrasing; sensitive, disciplined use of vibrato; and tremendous energy to the performance. Throughout the first movement, the orchestra delivered long, elegant phrases and gave constant attention to gradual changes in dynamics and textures. The second movement formed a graceful arc, from whispered opening to some stirring playing before returning to its opening sounds and tempo. A lovely, lilting rendition of the third movement gave way, with just a tiny pause, to a big, broad take on the fourth movement. Clean string sounds, fluid combined wind sounds, unapologetically bold brassy passages and some heart-on-the-sleeve musical abandon brought the audience to its feet at the piece’s end.”

 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – (Oct 17, 2014)

“The concert’s second half was filled by the artfully constructed Cherubini “Requiem in C minor.” Lecce-Chong led the singers and players through a decisive, cohesive performance of the piece that drew significant power from its use of dynamic contrasts as well as shifts and contrasts in choral and orchestral color, moving from feathery vocal lines and transparent orchestral sounds to glorious, soaring, forte passages for full ensemble.”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – (May 24, 2014)

 “Lecce-Chong led the orchestra in sensitive, colorful accompaniments of the baroque pieces from the harpsichord.”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – (February 8, 2014)

“The three composers, who were trained within a relatively small window of time at the Curtis Institute of Music, wrote with distinct and disparate voices. Their music — programmed for a single concert and conducted by another Curtis alum, MSO associate conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong — was a fascinating look at the variety of style in American orchestral music of the 20th century.”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – (February 1, 2014)

“Now in his third year with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Francesco Lecce-Chong is familiar to Milwaukee music fans – as a conductor, music enthusiast and speaker…”

Milwaukee Magazine – (November 11, 2013)

“The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and associate music director Francesco Lecce-Chong moved their proverbial tent to the Cathedral of St. John on Friday evening and worked the room beautifully with a program of Pärt, Bach and Bruckner that was perfectly tailored to the acoustics and ambience of the space.”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – (November 2, 2013)

“If there were a local award for “hardest working person in show business,” Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra associate conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong would be a shoo-in…”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – (October 29, 2013)

“Reveling in “Till’s” rich orchestrations and expansive melodies, Lecce-Chong and the orchestra gave a thoroughly engrossing performance that was built of thoughtful, wonderfully communicative ensemble work across the orchestra… The MSO and Lecce-Chong, who conducted all but the concerto from memory, opened the program’s second half with music from Mozart’s “Idomeneo,” bringing thoughtful music-making and tight ensemble work to the piece, along with a strong sense of drama. The “Rosenkavalier” suite that wrapped up the program was a festival of gorgeous melodies and spectacular orchestrations given a beautiful performance. Lecce-Chong and the orchestra gave a captivating performance of the piece, from the lilting waltz sections to the piece’s most delicate, transparent moments. They used broad dynamic contrasts and liberally applied rubati and accelerandi for emphasis and direction, making transitions feel effortless.”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – (May 3, 2013)

“Conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong introduced violinist Augustin Hadelich as “one of the greatest violinists of my generation” at Friday’s Milwaukee Symphony concert. The 20-something Hadelich proved him right, with a completely engrossing rendition of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5. Hadelich didn’t have the chance to return the compliment, and Lecce-Chong of course wouldn’t say such a thing about himself. The MSO’s 20-something assistant conductor didn’t have to – he had just made a strong case with a remarkable reading of R. Strauss’ Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks. Lecce-Chong, conducting from memory and supremely confident, led an acutely alert and responsive orchestra through Strauss’ mercurial 15-minute tone poem. Lecce-Chong attended to every strand in Strauss’ densely woven texture, and his players rewarded him by investing all of them with vivid character. This Till Eulenspiegel burst with energy on the large scale and beguiled with subtlety on the small scale.”

Third Coast Digest – (May 3, 2013)

“Lecce-Chong led this remarkable work from memory and drew vivid, energetic and wonderfully precise playing, including dead-on ensemble in the massed string passages. He also saw the big picture in music of grand vistas and built dynamics and intensity over long stretches of time.”

Third Coast Digest – (January 19, 2013)

“Conducting without a score, Lecce-Chong led a performance that was built not of interpretive surprises but of thoughtful, lively choices. He made the inner voices and details of the piece perfectly clear, with constant attention to the context of the greater work. His effective use of dynamic contrasts included some almost transparent, delicate sounds that preceded the final, energetic stride to the end of the piece, which was performed crisply and boldly, with a perfect balance of energy and dignity.”

Elaine Schmidt – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – (January 17, 2013)

“Lecce-Chong led the orchestra through a swashbuckling, high-pressure reading of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. The MSO gave him everything in this exciting performance. I especially liked the young conductor’s handling of the tricky transition from the third movement to the fourth. He wound the spring, sprung the surprise, and won himself a standing ovation from the capacity crowd at Marcus Center Uihlein Hall.”

Third Coast Digest – (January 17, 2013)

“The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, led by assistant conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong, filled the huge, ornate space with music on the theme of transfiguration Friday evening, creating a powerful concert experience.”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – (November 17, 2012)

Death and Transfiguration fit the venue well. Both the piece and Lecce-Chong were unhurried. Drama rose not through pace but dynamic swells. The dramatic peaks overloaded the basilica with sound, but the ringing in the ears seemed appropriate to the theme. Lecce-Chong brought the work to a triumphant conclusion and a standing ovation.”

Third Coast Digest – (November 17, 2012)

“We all should be as excited about our jobs as Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra assistant conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong.”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – (November 9, 2012)

“Lecce-Chong and the players gave Schoenberg’s “Verklärte Nacht” (“Transfigured Night”) an engrossing performance, relishing the piece’s colorful harmonies and melodic lines. They gave it the Romantic-era expression it needs, without overemphasizing its forward-looking harmonies.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – (March 31, 2012)

“For Verklärte Nacht, [Lecce-Chong] stepped behind the altar, close among his 25 or so string players. He eschewed the baton and stirred up the pre-serial, late-Romantic mercurial passions with just the right blend of zeal and control.  It really felt like a D-minor dark night of the soul followed by a redemptive sunrise in D-major.

Third Coast Digest – (March 31, 2012)

“Lecce-Chong wallowed in its sonic gorgeousness by encouraging his players to well up within its phrases and lavish especially buttery tone upon it…”

Third Coast Digest – (November 18, 2011)

“Lecce-Chong and the orchestra combined elegantly crafted lines with just the right amount of sighing angst and urgent statements…”

Elaine Schmidt – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – (November 10, 2011)

“Lecce-Chong’s exuberance and energy fit the Polonaise and the Sixth Symphony. He and the orchestra bought into its sonic brilliance and emotional extravagance and refreshed a too-familiar work… This expressive, Romantic music requires a good deal of shaping by the conductor. Lecce-Chong’s assurance with the direction and weight of the phrase kept the music taut and flexible…”

Third Coast Digest – (November 10, 2011)

“Lecce-Chong makes himself available in the lobby and fields questions from any patron who approaches him. He blogs for the MSO and turns up at official events. He doesn’t regard all this is a chore, and he shouldn’t. Rare indeed is the assistant conductor who can evolve into something of a celebrity in the local market. Lecce-Chong has a chance to do that…”

Third Coast Digest – (November 8, 2011)

“Before he discovered that he wanted to conduct an orchestra, Francesco Lecce-Chong was well on his way to being the orchestra…”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – (November 5, 2011)

“Talk about a whirlwind career trajectory. Francesco Lecce-Chong begins his appointment as the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s assistant conductor at the ripe old age of 24…”

Milwaukee Magazine – (August 22, 2011)

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