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

At BSO, a conductor in the family business

"On the podium, [Masur] cuts a figure both streamlined and angular, and his taut podium gestures convey a wiry intensity. That quality worked to fine effect in the hurtling music... Masur’s leadership from the podium was for the most part effective and efficient." - The Boston Globe

Ken-David Masur