Music Director & Conductor, Eugene Symphony
Music Director & Conductor, Santa Rosa Symphony
Francesco Lecce-Chong is a fast-rising conductor with an international presence. He was appointed Music Director of two US orchestras, the Eugene Symphony and the Santa Rosa Symphony before he reached 30. He has successfully launched several groundbreaking projects, commissioned dozens of orchestral pieces, and fostered community engagement. Mr. Lecce-Chong has appeared with orchestras worldwide including the San Francisco Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Seattle Symphony, National Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, Toronto Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, Hong Kong Philharmonic, and collaborated with top soloists such as Renée Fleming and Itzhak Perlman. In the 2024/25 season, Mr. Lecce-Chong will take on the role of Artistic Partner with the Eugene Symphony, a newly created position that further highlights his exceptional contributions to the field.
Mr. Lecce-Chong’s subscription debut with the San Francisco Symphony was described by The San Francisco Chronicle as “first rate” and pointed out the “vitality and brilliance of the music-making he drew from members of the San Francisco Symphony.” Other recent subscription debuts include the Seattle Symphony, Utah Symphony, North Carolina Symphony, Louisville Orchestra, Kansas City Symphony, Detroit Symphony, as well as a return to the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra where he conducted the US premiere of Brett Dean’s Piano Concerto.
In September 2023, Mr. Lecce-Chong debuts in Europe at the prestigious George Enescu Festival with the Romanian Radio Orchestra leading a program of Hindemith and Bernstein. During his 2023/24 season with the Santa Rosa Symphony, he continues a cycle of the large orchestral works of Rachmaninoff paired with film composers entitled “Rachmaninoff and the Hollywood Sound” and leads the world premieres of new orchestral works by Conrad Tao, Clarice Assad and Michael Djupstrom.Read more
During Mr. Lecce-Chong’s tenure, both the Eugene and the Santa Rosa Symphony have achieved significant milestones. One of his first large-scale endeavors was the “First Symphony Project,” which consisted of full-length commissions from four of America’s emerging composers over the course of four seasons, complete with residencies in the communities. The Eugene Symphony embarked on its most ambitious program in its history, a three-part concert presentation of Wagner’s complete Tristan und Isolde. The Santa Rosa Symphony reached over two million households in the Bay Area through its “Santa Rosa Symphony Presents” TV broadcasts through local PBS. The programming included over 20 works by living composers and a partnership with the Pulitzer Prize winner Ellen Taaffe Zwillich, culminating in a recording of her music conducted by Lecce-Chong released in 2022 on the Delos label, the first CD release in the orchestra’s history.
Only last season, Mr. Lecce-Chong led the world premieres of five major orchestral works and led the Santa Rosa Symphony in Mozart’s Magic Flute for which he wrote his own original dialogue and created the staging and sets. He continues to build partnerships with local art institutions, schools and businesses to create original, multi-disciplinary experiences for audiences.
In his early conducting career, Mr. Lecce-Chong served as Associate Conductor with the Pittsburgh Symphony under Manfred Honeck and with the Milwaukee Symphony under Edo de Waart. He built his opera credentials as staff conductor with the Santa Fe Opera and conducted Madama Butterfly at the Florentine Opera with the Milwaukee 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 renowned conductors including Bernard Haitink, David Zinman, Edo de Waart, Manfred Honeck, Donald Runnicles and Michael Tilson Thomas.
This week, Francesco Lecce-Chong will be making his anticipated debut at the George Enescu International Festival, one of Europe's biggest festivals for classical music. On Sunday, September 3rd, he will conduct the Romanian Radio Orchestra in a program featuring...
Francesco Lecce-Chong's will debut with the Detroit Symphony on June 15th, 16th and 18th. He will conduct the orchestra through a captivating program of Mason Bates' Garages of the Valley, Hindemith's Mathis der Maler, and Beethoven's Emperor Concerto with pianist...
Deb Carver, President of Eugene Symphony Association’s Board of Directors, announced today that Francesco Lecce-Chong has added a year to his contract as Music Director & Conductor, extending his tenure through the 2023/24 season. His previous agreement, signed in...
“The playing and conducting were stupendous […] In recent years, the [Santa Rosa] Symphony has set a high standard that it keeps exceeding […] Lecce-Chong’s minute and specific conducting gestures prompted a splendid orchestral balance.”
“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.”
“One candidate stands head, shoulders, and baton above the rest… 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.”
“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.”