Four-Year Contract Runs through 2022-2023 Season
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 2019-2020 season as it builds towards the much anticipated grand opening of the Milwaukee Symphony Center in fall 2020. 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.
Ken-David Masur. Photo Credit: Chris Lee
“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 are the very right fit for the MSO, and also for Milwaukee as its reputation as a culturally vibrant destination continues to grow.”
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 and its 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.
“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.”
“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.”
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.
The MSO acquired the former Warner Grand Theater building on West Wisconsin Avenue in December 2017, which, once renovated, will serve as the MSO’s dedicated performance center. The grand opening of the future Milwaukee Symphony Center is expected in the Fall of 2020.
With control over its own venue, along with new revenue streams from facility rental fees, catering and concessions, a dedicated MSO performance space would help drive increases in annual earned revenue by as much as 60 percent. The MSO would also have greater flexibility to schedule marquee guest performers and conductors who typically require substantial multi-year lead notice for performance requests. Once complete, the Milwaukee Symphony Center will deliver a one-of-a-kind, first class patron experience that will create magical, memorable experiences for patrons. Its size, accessible location, outstanding acoustics and more make an ideal canvas to reclaim this historical venue as a modern-day community asset. In addition to restoring its former grandeur, plans for the Milwaukee Symphony Center include a number of community, education and collaboration spaces, ample lit and accessible parking options, onsite catering, easy curb-side drop off/pick up, and more.
“More people than ever before are choosing to attend our inspiring performances and there is tremendous community interest in fostering a thriving MSO. Closing on the acquisition of the Warner Grand Theater is a significant step in both our artistic and financial future,” said Niehaus. “We remain humbled and grateful to our donors and the greater Milwaukee community, whose response to this effort to date has been amazing. Together, we are investing in both the MSO and Milwaukee’s reputation as a vibrant, culturally-significant home and destination.”
CRITICAL PRAISE FOR KEN-DAVID MASUR
“…Masur led the [Boston Symphony] orchestra through a neat mix of excerpts from Prokofiev’s ballet “Romeo and Juliet”. Each was given a transparent, eloquent reading…”
– Zoë Madonna, The Boston Globe, Oct 19, 2018
“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, Oct 19, 2018
“Masur and the [Milwaukee Symphony] orchestra filled the program’s second half with a beautifully rendered performance of Brahms’ Symphony No. 2, using perfectly placed tempos shifts, artfully layered textures, and meaningful dynamic changes to bring a fresh energy to the four movements, along with musical urgency and momentum.” – Elaine Schmidt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Sept 16, 2018
“Under Masur, the music emerged with refined subtleties with only rare and selective moments of heat. What seemed to be a bond of trust between [Milwaukee Symphony] musicians and conductor, and vice versa, created especially sensitive playing.” – Rick Walters, The Shepherd Express, Sep 18, 2018
“Masur… steered the [Boston Symphony] orchestra through a piquant journey through those magical, dreamlike passages…”
– Clarence Fanto, The Berkshire Eagle, Aug 6, 2018
“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 [Los Angeles] Phil’s cellos and basses in the Scherzo’s trio section.” – Rick Schultz, Los Angeles Times, Aug 24, 2016