Well-traveled conductor found a home in Phila.
Ling Tung ranged far. A principal conductor in West Germany in the 1950s. A violinist with the Philadelphia Orchestra in the 1960s.
Ling Tung ranged far.
A principal conductor in West Germany in the 1950s.
A violinist with the Philadelphia Orchestra in the 1960s.
A principal conductor in Hong Kong in the 1980s.
But his longest tenures were as conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra in Philadelphia in cold-weather months in the 1960s and 1970s and as music director of the Grand Teton Music Festival in Wyoming in summers from 1968 to 1996.
On Saturday, May 14, Mr. Tung, 78, a 40-year resident of Bethayres, Montgomery County, died of complications from brain cancer at Abington Memorial Hospital.
In a 1988 commentary, Inquirer music critic Daniel Webster noted that in Wyoming, "the combination of landscape, summer population, Rockefeller money, and Tung's organizational zeal has created a festival with a universal musical voice bearing a distinctly Philadelphia accent."
The South China Morning Post in Hong Kong reported Thursday that Mr. Tung was "from a prominent music family from Shanghai."
In 1967, The Inquirer reported that "he began studying violin when he was 5. At 14 he became the youngest member of the Shanghai Philharmonic."
"A year later . . . he and his mother left China. . . . They came to Philadelphia, where he was awarded a scholarship to the Curtis Institute of Music."
Twenty years after the teenager's departure, The Inquirer said, his father, "a former president of Shanghai University, remains in China."
Mr. Tung graduated from Curtis in 1954 and, after playing for the New Orleans Philharmonic, for the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, and at the Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont, he was drafted into the Army in 1956, nephew Theodore Wong said in a phone interview.
In West Germany, the military made Mr. Tung conductor of the Seventh Army Symphony, a job he held from January 1957 - when he was 23 - to April 1958.
The orchestra website says the group toured France, appeared on German television, and attracted Antal Dorati as a guest conductor for a Stuttgart concert.
After his military duty ended, Mr. Tung played in the first-violin section of the Philadelphia Orchestra from 1958 to 1964, Wong said.
That was when his full-time conducting career began.
In 1965, he founded and became conductor of the Camden Symphony. In May 1969, it ended its fourth season with an Academy of Music concert billed as the first one under its new name, the Philharmonia Orchestra, with Mr. Tung continuing as conductor.
An Inquirer reviewer wrote that the "ensemble of nearly 100 is composed of the pick of the area's musicians outside the Philadelphia Orchestra."
The next season was to feature three Academy concerts, a series at Rutgers University-Camden, and programs in Harrisburg and Delaware.
Webster, the music critic, wrote that in a 1976 performance of a Gunther Schuller symphony, "the ensemble played . . . with sensitivity and regard, and Tung urged dramatic climaxes tellingly."
One of the last Philadelphia newspaper items about the group was for an Academy of Music concert in early 1978.
The South China Morning Post wrote of Mr. Tung that "in 1979, shortly after the release of two acclaimed recordings with the Philharmonia Orchestra in London, he was appointed music chief of the Hong Kong Philharmonic."
"His tenure was best remembered for heated controversy over the dismissals and appointments of players, which led to his downfall" in 1981.
Houng Wang-leung, a former cellist with the Philharmonic, told the newspaper that Mr. Tung "was given a mandate to raise the orchestra's level within a short time, and he did that by bringing in expatriate players."
"Some 40 percent of the players were changed, and that caused a huge uproar among the players."
Houng added: "We should also remember Tung's contributions, which include instituting a subscription season, summer vacations, and higher salaries for musicians."
Five years before Mr. Tung arrived, Houng told the paper, the musicians were paid less than Hong Kong bus drivers.
After Hong Kong in the 1980s, Mr. Tung spent most of his time in Wyoming with the summer festival, though in winters "he spent three, four years conducting in Slovakia" as a podium guest, his nephew said.
After leaving Grand Teton in the 1990s, Wong said, Mr. Tung spent time on the south coast of China, helping to organize and educate the members of what became the Xiamen Philharmonic Orchestra.
But he maintained a Philadelphia-area musical presence. In November 1998, for instance, he was the guest conductor for a program by the Bucks County Symphony Orchestra at Cental Bucks High School East in Doylestown.
Mr. Tung is survived by a brother, Liby; sisters Kwong Kwong Ma and Ming Ming Shen; and his former wife, Margot Walk.
A private Philadelphia memorial is planned. The Grand Teton Music Festival has set a memorial celebration concert for Sunday, Aug. 14.