Kwong Kwong Ma, 85, of Lafayette Hill, noted pianist

Kwong Kwong Ma
Kwong Kwong Ma
Posted: August 18, 2013

Kwong Kwong Ma, 85, of Lafayette Hill, a noted pianist and teacher, died Monday, Aug. 5, at Chestnut Hill Hospital, of acute respiratory failure.

Born in Shanghai, China, Mrs. Ma lived in New York and Ohio. She moved to the Philadelphia suburbs four years ago to be near family and took up residence at the Hill at Whitemarsh, a retirement community.

Mrs. Ma came from a family of musicians. Her mother, Zoen Yien Wong, was one of the first Chinese graduates of Boston's New England Conservatory of Music.

Her brother, Maestro Ling Tung, was the former music director of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. A violin prodigy in China, he came to the United States in 1947 to attend the New England Conservatory. He died in May 2011.

Mrs. Ma was known professionally as Tung Kwong Kwong, her maiden name.

She studied with Maestro Mario Paci, conductor of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, before coming to the United States in 1946 to continue her training.

Cited by conductor Arthur Fiedler of the Boston Pops Orchestra as a favorite soloist, she performed with him often.

Mrs. Ma was one of the last students of Artur Schnabel, a classical pianist who died in 1951.

In the late 1950s, she was invited to Germany by her brother, who at the time was conductor of the Seventh Army Symphony Orchestra. In appearances with the orchestra, Mrs. Ma performed all five piano concertos of Beethoven and the two by Brahms.

Later, Mrs. Ma toured with her husband, violinist Ma Si-Hon, to whom she was married for more than 50 years. They recorded and performed together in Western Europe, North America, and the Far East, and also were resident artists at the Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont in the early 1960s.

In the early 1970s, the couple founded the Si-Yo Music Society, which gave a series of chamber music concerts in New York City from 1971 to 2004 to support the Chinese community. Her husband died in 2009.

Mrs. Ma appeared regularly in New York, performing at Town Hall and Merkin Concert Hall, and later in a solo recital in Carnegie Hall.

Through her long career, she remained an influential piano teacher and coach to many gifted students.

In person, she was a proper, gracious person, but not without a sense of humor. "It's a loss, but she did brighten up a lot of lives," said her nephew, Ted Wong.

Surviving are a brother; a sister; and nieces and nephews. A memorial concert will be later.


Contact Bonnie L. Cook at 610-313-8102 or bcook@phillynews.com.

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