Some Scorcher at Symphony

"...the tactic of lean and long-limbed Ken-David Masur superseded older models by way of sprawling arms in rehearsed athleticism supplanting wanted poetic imagination á la Berlioz."

Ken-David Masur
Ken-David Masur steps in for Gustavo Dudamel at the Boston Symphony Orchestra

Conductor Gustavo Dudamel bows out of this week’s BSO concerts

Gustavo Dudamel
, the artistic director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, has withdrawn from remaining upcoming concerts in his scheduled two-week stint with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. According to a statement provided by the BSO, the Venezuelan conductor is cancelling on the advice of his doctor, because of complications from a hand and arm injury. He sustained it from a fall in December.

Dudamel, 38, who on April 5 and 6 conducted a program of Schumann’s Symphony No. 1, “Spring,” and Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring,” expressed his regrets in a statement. “I . . . was so looking forward to this coming week’s performances of music by [Paul] Desenne, [Alberto] Ginastera, and [Antonio] Estévez — three composers dear to my heart,” he said. “With apologies to Boston’s wonderful orchestra and audience, I look forward to returning to Symphony Hall in future seasons to continue our fantastic music-making for all those devoted to this remarkable orchestra!”

BSO associate conductor Ken-David Masur will replace Dudamel for the remaining performance of Schumann and Stravinsky, on April 9.

For concerts on April 11-13, Dudamel had curated a highly anticipated program of South American composers and soloists, which was to have included the first-ever BSO performances of any works by Desenne and Estévez. In the revised program, Berlioz’s “Roman Carnival Overture” will replace Desenne’s 2014 “Hipnosis Mariposa,” and Argentinian pianist Sergio Tiempo will perform Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G instead of Ginastera’s Piano Concerto No. 1. Masur will conduct both pieces. The BSO Casual Fridays concert on April 12 will omit the Berlioz.

In the second half of the concert, Antonio Estévez’s “Cantata Criolla” will be performed as scheduled, but BSO choral director James Burton will lead the performance, featuring tenor Aquiles Machado , baritone Gustavo Castillo, and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus.

- Zoë Madonna, The Boston Globe

Ken-David Masur


Milwaukee Symphony concertgoers have had time to look over the 2019.20 season schedule by now, but Ken-David Masur is thinking longer term.

Masur, the symphony’s new music director, will conduct eight of the 18 classical subscription concerts in the new season and helped plan the rest. But he is already working on 2020.21, the first season in the Warner Grand Theater, and beyond. “We have a wish list for a trilogy of seasons,” Masur said, and he is poring over the database of past performances, thinking about pieces that he wants to have a chance to conduct with the MSO.

The 2019.20 season will be performed partly in the Pabst Theater, due to the limited availability of Uihlein Hall before the symphony moves out altogether, as Warner Grand renovations continue. “I’m very giddy to get in there when the stage is set and have a sound check,” Masur said. The first season will be a learning process, but Masur said that the symphony plans to commission new works for performance in the new space.

New music is important to Masur; seven of his eight programs next season feature work by a composer who is alive or recently deceased. “I absolutely hope that relations between the orchestra and audiences will have a level of trust” that every concert is worth their time and money, Masur said – including the orchestra’s commitment to new music, so that commissions “will be met with anticipation and enthusiasm, not with suspicion or simple tolerance.”

Masur spoke enthusiastically about the three-week festival of Russian composers in January, for which he will conduct Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Originally written for piano, that piece is beloved in the United States, but almost always in Maurice Ravel’s orchestration. Masur, however, will lead an arrangement by Sergei Gorchakov, which was preferred by his late father, Kurt Masur, former music director of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic. “It’s a Russian orchestrating a Russian, and it has a very thick texture when needed,” Masur said.

That concert will also feature (K)ein Sommernachtstraum, or “(Not) A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” by Alfred Schnittke, a Georgian composer whom Masur knew and whose funeral in Moscow he vividly remembers. “I had wonderful conversations with him,” he said. “This is very personal to me.”

The classical world will be celebrating Ludwig van Beethoven’s 250th birthday in 2020, and the MSO has scheduled the master’s first six symphonies for next season. It would not be a stretch to assume that nos. 7, 8 and 9 will be performed the following season in the new hall. That arrangement was not totally deliberate, but Masur and Bret Dorhout, the MSO’s vice president of planning and operations, were thinking of an arc for the whole season as well as individual concerts. It does build a sense of “creating a journey and asking people to come along,” he said, and in the new hall, “the journey ends with a new beginning.”

Aside from planning seasons, another new responsibility for Masur will be choosing new musicians. “The Milwaukee Symphony is an extraordinary group of musicians, both technically and stylistically,” Masur said, and he praised the hires of music director laureate Edo de Waart over the past ten years. For coming openings, “I hope we have a fantastic pool,” Masur said. “I tell young musicians that I meet, in Tanglewood or Chicago or Europe, to consider coming to join the Milwaukee Symphony.” Because of the new hall and the lengthening season (it will expand from 40 weeks to 42 weeks by 2021.22), the MSO should be seen as an increasingly attractive job.
For future seasons, “we always have a drawer full of ideas,” Masur said. Having grown up in Leipzig, he feels a connection to the many composers who lived there: Bach, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Wagner, and more. Masur has a long history with Bach in particular, and some of that composer’s choral masterworks might well appear on the Warner Grand stage.

But he is thinking bigger than simply symphony orchestra programming in a downtown concert hall. The building itself is more than its concert space; it can host art exhibits or panel discussions, and it can extend its reach to other organizations.

“I want to connect in relevant ways to the audience,” Masur said, “but we have to get everyone on board with these feelings.” He has told Dorhout and executive director Mark Niehaus that he wants to meet as many Milwaukee arts leaders as possible, “and find out who is interested in new programs that we are equipped to help realize.”

In Milwaukee, “I want to learn what the jazz scene is like, what the new music scene is like, what the chamber music scene is like,” Masur said. “I want to learn what Milwaukee’s DNA is and where we can contribute.” Doing a lot of listening before making any announcements means that he should get an idea of what will work and what won’t. “My mindset is a great level of curiosity and anticipation. I look forward to knowing the city and its people, and finding where our music and art form will hit a nerve. I’m always inviting people I’ve met, from around the world, to come and see.”

Ken-David Masur
Philharmonic tells a story, with pizzazz

“Ken-David Masur, the son of legendary German conductor Kurt Masur, was one with the podium and could do no wrong. He blew the doors off Vets Auditorium with a blazing account of Berlioz’s game-changing “Symphonie fantastique,” the best showing by the orchestra all season, with a smoking brass section that would not quit…

Masur opened the evening with an old chestnut, but one not heard all that often in the flesh. That would be “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” of “Fantasia” fame. And while we all thought we knew this score, Masur was able to make it sound fresh…

Masur and the orchestra pulled no punches. Like the Rachmaninoff, this was a performance with plenty of flash in the “March to the Scaffold” and “Witches’ Sabbath,” but also with ravishing moments in the “Scene in the Country,” thanks to Jane Murray’s wistful English horn solos.”

Ken-David Masur

"Thank you, Maestro Masur, for your introduction to a tantalizing piece and bringing your talents to our Louisville Orchestra podium. I hope that this will not be your only visit to our lovely and talented Possibility City."

Ken-David Masur
Milwaukee Symphony names Ken-David Masur its new music director

Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Names Ken-David Masur as Music Director
Four-Year Contract Runs through 2022.23 Season

MILWAUKEE – November 12, 2018 – Following a 36-month international search, Ken-David Masur has been named the seventh Music Director and Polly and Bill Van Dyke Music Director Chair for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (MSO). Masur is currently the associate conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and principal guest conductor of the Munich Symphony. He will begin immediately as Music Director Designate and join the MSO as Music Director for the 2019.20 season as it builds towards the much anticipated grand opening of the Milwaukee Symphony Center in fall 2020.

“Through a committee composed of board members, donors and orchestra musicians, the search for the MSO’s seventh Music Director was deliberate and diverse, encompassing candidates from around the globe,” said Doug Hagerman, chairman of the MSO’s Music Director Search Committee. “Ken-David is a once-in-a-generation musician, conductor and innovator who boasts an impressive resume of accomplishments, yet is friendly and approachable. He was unanimously voted to serve as the next Music Director given his artistic brilliance and genuine passion for how the arts can unify people and communities. We are thrilled to welcome Ken-David and his family to Milwaukee.”

Critics from around the world have hailed Masur as “fearless, bold, and a life-force” (San Diego Union- Tribune) and “a brilliant and commanding conductor with unmistakable charisma” (Leipzig Volkszeitung). Masur began the 2018.19 season making his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Ravinia, then returned to Tanglewood to conduct the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Over his career, Masur has made many successful debuts with the likes of the Los Angeles, Dresden, Israel and Japan Philharmonics; the Hiroshima, San Diego, San Antonio and Memphis Symphonies; and the Orchestre National de France in Paris. His guest engagements during the 2018.19 season include weeks with the Louisville Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony, and the Chicago Civic orchestra plus concerts abroad with the National Philharmonic of Russia, Collegium Musicum Basel, the Stavanger Symphony, and the Mulhouse Symphony Orchestra in France.

Masur made his Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra debut on May 19, 2018 and was immediately invited back to open the MSO’s current season in September 2018.

“My family and I are humbled and grateful to join such a fantastic team of orchestra musicians, chorus, staff and board members who are working in harmony for our audience and community,” said Masur. “In particular, I am inspired by the incredible community-wide collaboration to create the new performance home for the MSO. Having seen the plans and having visited the Warner Grand Theatre myself, it is clear it will become a destination as well as a point of departure for great programming befitting a city and region of this caliber. I’m eager to begin planning the next few seasons, which includes Beethoven’s 250th anniversary, as well as the much-anticipated opening of Milwaukee Symphony Center in the fall of 2020.”

Born in Leipzig into a family of musicians, Ken-David Masur first studied violin and piano at the Mendelssohn Bartholdy Conservatory and was a member of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Children’s Chorus. After moving to New York City, he received further training in composition, trumpet and percussion. He then went on to graduate from Columbia University, where he served as the first Music Director of the Bach Society Orchestra and Chorus from 1999-2002. He returned to Germany for post-graduate studies at the Detmold Academy and the Hanns Eisler Conservatory in Berlin. Masur and his wife, pianist Melinda Lee Masur, are co-founders and Artistic Directors of the Chelsea Music Festival in New York City, an annual summer festival of music, visual art, and food lauded by The New York Times as a “gem of a series.” He received a Grammy nomination from the Latin Recording Academy in the category Best Classical Album of the Year for his work as a producer of composer Miguel Del Aguila’s album, Salon Buenos Aires.

“Music allows us to feel what is essential, and through its expression begins a conversation about who we are and where we want to go” continued Masur. “This is why I’m so very excited to start with the MSO and communicate the music that will speak to each listener in personal ways. This is a great American city filled with creativity, imagination and ideas, and the music we will reveal will spark continued dialogue.”

“The relationship between the conductor, musicians and the audience is a magical alchemy,” said Mark Niehaus, president & executive director of the MSO. “Both on and off the podium, Ken-David leads and provokes, but also builds and inspires to create experiences that go beyond the notes on a page. His energy, passion and collaborative nature is the very right fit for the MSO, and also for Milwaukee as its reputation as a culturally vibrant destination continues to grow.”

About the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra

The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra is among the finest orchestras in the nation and the largest cultural institution in Wisconsin. The MSO’s musicians perform over 135 classics, pops, family, education, and community concerts each season in venues throughout the state. Since its inception in 1959, the MSO has found innovative ways to give music a home in the region, develop music appreciation and talent among area youth, and raise the national reputation of Milwaukee.

The MSO’s standard of excellence extends beyond the concert hall and into the community, reaching more than 40,000 children and their families through its Arts in Community Education (ACE) program, Youth and Teen concerts, Family Series, and Meet the Music pre-concert talks.

Ken-David Masur
Love's Labours Lost

“Masur and the BSO fully embodied the tension, scampering, scampering, playful fast passagework, and luxuriating unbridled passion; we are the richer for the experience.”
-Chasman Kerr Prince, Boston Musical Intelligencer

Ken-David Masur
At BSO, an evening of incidental music

"...something of a macaronic mixture of classical drama, folkloristic fantasy, cabaret-style archness, and wink-winking 21st-century irony.  These elements don’t always sit easily together. But I can happily report that Masur and the orchestra raised their game in the Grieg by several notches, that the Tanglewood Festival Chorus was a vibrant presence, and that Tilling’s performances of Solveig’s Song and Solveig’s Lullaby, with their gleaming tone and beautiful purity of line, took the evening, albeit briefly, to an entirely different place." - Jeremy Eichler, The Boston Globe

Ken-David Masur
A Weekend Can Span Centuries at Tanglewood

"The reading of Lutoslawski’s difficult and underperformed Concerto for Orchestra was especially notable, with Mr. Masur showing complete command and the students playing at a near-professional level." - Hillary Scott, The New York Times

Ken-David Masur
Los Angeles Philharmonic at The Hollywood Bowl

"Conducting without a baton, Masur used a score but hardly looked at it. He showed an impressive structural grasp both in his warm and perfectly paced Andante and in his supple shaping of the score's wraith-like transition from the Scherzo into the bracing Allegro finale. Masur also highlighted the riveting virtuosity of the Phil's cellos and basses in the Scherzo’s trio section." - The Los Angeles Times

BSO in fine fettle under Asst. Conductor Ken-David Masur

Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 with the Boston Symphony, July 2016

"If a conductor doesn’t share Tchaikovsky’s penchant for the shamelessly bombastic, then a “classier” or more reserved composer might be a better choice. But Masur is fearless of Tchaikovsky’s over-the-top grandiloquence, and he knows how to pull out the stops and damn the torpedoes at appropriate times.

Don’t all conductors do this when the score calls for it?

It may appear that they do. But under Masur’s direction on Saturday, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 crackled with such vitality and force that past performances of the work now seem pale and tentative by comparison. The crowd was ready to explode long before the piece ended. And when it did, they stood and roared." - The Berkshire Edge