Seattle Symphony Music Director Thomas Dausgaard abruptly resigned his post, midway through his third season atop Seattle’s flagship orchestra.
Dausgaard’s last day with the Symphony was earlier this week; he communicated his decision by phone from his home in Denmark to Seattle Symphony board chairman Jon Rosen, according to the Symphony. The Danish conductor was only back in person with the Symphony Orchestra for a concert less than two months ago, after travel restrictions linked to the pandemic kept him away for a while. twenty months.
“My decision to walk away at this time when we have achieved such collective artistic success is the result of these times of pandemic, which ask us all the following question: How do we value our lives?” Dausgaard said in a press release from Symphony. He could not be reached immediately for comment. “I have enjoyed my life with the Seattle Symphony immensely, and it’s time for me to move on.”
Dausgaard leaves before his last season initially scheduled for 2022-2023, and with concerts he is due to conduct ahead. Seattle Symphony says it is making arrangements for guest conductors to step in and lineup updates for the current season will be announced shortly.
“The pandemic has been a time of great challenge and self-reflection for all of us, and therefore we understand and respect his decision,” Seattle Symphony President and CEO Krishna Thiagarajan said in the statement.
“I don’t know if I expected it, but I’m not sure I was totally surprised,” Thiagarajan said on Friday morning of Dausgaard’s decision, adding that the coronavirus restrictions posed for Dausgaard “significant travel problems” and that the driver “difficulty making music regularly” caused his departure.
There are currently no plans to appoint an interim music director. Thiagarajan was optimistic about an ongoing SSO relationship with Dausgaard in one form or another and the possibility that he would be asked to return to guest driving.
The Symphony will appoint a research committee – comprising representatives of the musicians, the board of directors and the staff– to find his next musical director, said spokeswoman Dinah Lu.
Dausgaard, who is also the conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (in his last season there), began his tenure as Music Director of the Seattle Symphony in 2019, after several years of guest conducting here. He first appeared with the SSO as a guest chef in 2013 and was appointed as a guest lead chef starting in the 2014-15 season.
But it has faced upheaval caused by COVID-19, with concert cancellations announced until January 2021 and streaming concerts played without a live audience for the remainder of last season. Dausgaard could not be physically with the Symphony, as visa issues related to travel restrictions linked to the pandemic kept him out of the country. The live audience returned last September, with masking and vaccination proof requirements and remote seating in the Benaroya Hall, the orchestra’s home. Dausgaard was finally able to join the Symphony in person for a concert on November 11.
Its direction started off promisingly, with Dausgaard continuing the orchestra’s acclaimed series of recordings on his house label, Seattle Symphony Media. The Symphony is up for a Grammy Award this year in the category of Best Orchestral Performance, for a live recording of the music of Scriabin and Strauss taken from concerts in the first months of Dausgaard’s inaugural season. The orchestra was also nominated for a 2019 Grammy in the same category for its “Nielsen: Symphony No. 3 and Symphony No. 4” conducted by Dausgaard.
Dausgaard’s programming plans continued, and even broadened, the interest in contemporary music and new commissioned works initiated by former Seattle Symphony music director Ludovic Morlot and his predecessor, Gerard Schwarz, with increased attention paid to the music of women composers and composers of color.
“Thomas Dausgaard is a true visionary who has had a lasting impact on the Seattle symphony community,” said Rosen, chair of the symphony orchestra’s board of directors, in the press release. “His more than a decade of conducting and directing our orchestra has been marked by artistic success and a genuine and enthusiastic connection with musicians and audiences. “