Ahead of the classical music festival he founded, celebrated cellist Trey Lee discusses the need for cross-cultural exposure for the rising stars of the Hong Kong scene
Celebrated cellist Trey Lee on grooming talent and this month’s Musicus Fest
Hong kong-born cellist Trey Lee is hailed as a “miracle” by Gramophone magazine for a virtuosity it says combines intellectual sophistication with emotional depth, and has performed with esteemed conductors and orchestras around the world. His albums have topped the classical music charts and he appeared this year as the featured soloist with the BBC Philharmonic at the Shanghai Oriental Arts Centre. Trey co-founded the Musicus Society in 2010 to gain more exposure for Hong Kong artists and students to distinguished local and overseas artists. The charitable society supports music education for students of all social backgrounds to foster cultural ambassadors for Hong Kong. Musicus Fest, now in its third year and sponsored by Credit Suisse and Breguet, is the society’s four-day celebration of classical music in Hong Kong. Trey founded the festival and is its artistic director. Fifty established musicians will perform alongside rising local stars at several venues from November 25-29. musicussociety.org
Why the cello, and do you play any other instruments?
The cello was actually my mother’s choice. One of my sisters already played the piano and the other the violin, therefore my mother picked the cello for me so she would have a pleasing-sounding trio. Other than the cello, I have a handmade ukulele that I bought in a shop in Berlin and am learning to play via Youtube tutorials.
If you weren’t a cellist what would you be doing?
I would love to be an archaeologist. I have been on digs in Israel and France and am fascinated by artefacts from our past.
How do the classical music scenes of Asia and Europe differ?
In Europe one feels the weight of classical music’s history and a responsibility to continue traditions. Asia has a much younger, more vibrant scene. The average age of players and audiences in Asia is 30, whereas in the West the demographic is ageing—something the West is definitely beginning to worry about when considering who their future audiences will be.
What inspired you to establish the Musicus Society?
I was born in Hong Kong, grew up in New York and currently live in Berlin, so I’ve seen how classical music education functions in different countries. I realised that Hong Kong was lacking some of the extracurricular aspects of a rounded classical music education that exist in the West, such as festivals, masterclasses and opportunities to network and perform with older, established musicians, so I established the Musicus Society and Fest in an effort to fill some of these gaps.
What will be the highlights of this year’s festival?
I’m excited about how we are able to pair rising stars with international soloists. For example, we have an 80-year-old master pianist, Bruno Canino, playing a Mozart double piano concerto with 23-year-old Rachel Cheung. We also have rising pianist Colleen Lee playing a Mendelssohn double concerto with the Korean violinist Dongsuk Kang. The London Chamber Orchestra, which played at the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, is also performing.
take a bow Trey Lee performs during the opening concert of last year’s Musicus Fest at City Hall