Houston Symphony From the Orchestra September 2010:

On behalf of the musicians, I would like to welcome you back to the Houston Symphony for our very exciting 97th season! There are many reasons we are eager for this season, but high among them is the arrival of our new concertmaster, Frank Huang.

The concertmaster is technically the leader of the first violin section, but in practice he actually leads all of the string sections and ultimately, the entire orchestra. This musician is 'second in command' after the conductor and a great concertmaster can have a powerful unifying effect on the sound of the whole orchestra. The concertmaster must be a virtuoso player, able to command the respect of all his colleagues and also a sensitive chamber musician - constantly alert and adapting to everything that goes on around him. It's a very tall order to fill and since the retirement of Uri Pianka in 2005, we have been in a long and difficult search to find the right match.

As we were scouting for potential candidates, Frank was mentioned to me as a player with unquestioned virtuoso credentials, numerous top prizes in the biggest competitions in the world and many years of experience as the leader of a chamber orchestra. After tracking him down (via Facebook!), I was surprised to learn that Frank grew up in Houston and that his parents still live in Sugarland. He played a 'trial' week with us in May, 2009 and an audition in which, after just a few hours of practice (with the Rockets game on TV in the background, he later admitted) he played some of the most difficult Strauss excerpts imaginable as well as we had ever heard them played before.

It was a clear and unanimous choice for the selection committee, but Frank had just signed a contract with the Ying Quartet at the Eastman School. Despite the knowledge that we would have to wait, we made the difficult decision to focus our energies on recruiting him versus searching for other candidates. We are delighted to welcome Frank to our orchestra and excited to aspire to new artistic heights together.

I also want express our gratitude for the incredible contributions of our admired friend and valued colleague, Eric Halen. This is a happy case of adding strength to strength, and Eric will continue to lead the orchestra regularly. As Maestro Hans Graf has said, “Every orchestra needs several great concertmasters.”

It is an exciting time for our city when we have the culture both to produce a world renowned musician like Frank and to support a top level orchestra that could bring him back home. Enjoy the concert!