Florida Orchestra’s Stefan Sanderling stepping down early as music director
By John Fleming, Times Performing Arts Critic
In Print: Monday, July 2, 2012
From left, Stefan Sanderling and Henz Karl Gruber rehearse Gruber’s piece Frankenstein!! A Pan-Demonium for Chansonnier & Ensemble at the Mahaffey Theater in January of last year.
[EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN | Times]
ST. PETERSBURG — Stefan Sanderling is making an early exit from the Florida Orchestra.
The orchestra announced late Sunday that Sanderling is stepping down as music director two years sooner than he said he was a year ago, when the conductor announced he would not renew his contract after it expired at the end of the 2013-14 season.
“This has been in the works about two months,” orchestra president Michael Pastreich said. In Pastreich’s account, the subject first came up when he and orchestra board chair Tom Farquhar met with Sanderling in the conductor’s dressing room at Ruth Eckerd Hall in late April after a Sunday night concert, and Sanderling asked to be released from his current contract.
“I wasn’t surprised,” Pastreich said. “I think Stefan’s career is heading in a different direction.”
Orchestra musicians, who learned about the music director’s premature departure over the weekend, were surprised. “We’re shocked to hear this, especially since it must have been in the works for some time,” spokesman Richard Sparrow, a French horn player, said. “We wish Sanderling the best in all his future endeavors.”
Sanderling, music director since the 2003-04 season, had been scheduled to conduct 10 of the 14 masterworks programs in the upcoming season, with a similar obligation for 2013-14. Now he will conduct only one program in each of the next two seasons, with Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth) and Haydn’s Farewell Symphony on the agenda for March 15-17.
To accommodate his sudden departure, the orchestra has virtually rewritten the 2012-13 season, which will feature a dozen guest conductors, with seven of them signed up in a very short time. Many of these now are likely to be considered as prospective candidates for music director.
Sanderling, 48, who has been designated conductor emeritus and artistic adviser of the orchestra, is spending the summer in Europe. He did not reply to an email requesting comment. In an interview with theTampa Bay Times last fall, he made it plain that he had become disenchanted with the orchestra’s board and management, though he didn’t specify his grievances beyond unhappiness with the musicians’ perennially low rate of pay. As a kind of protest, perhaps, he had stopped making his popular pre-concert talks.
This past year has been a hard one personally for Sanderling. In September, he was at the bedside of his father, the legendary German conductor Kurt Sanderling, when he died in Berlin one day short of his 99th birthday.
Sanderling continues to be principal conductor of the Toledo Symphony, for whom he will lead at least eight programs in the 2012-13 season. He also will conduct a Toledo Opera production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni in February. According to industry website Musical America, about three months ago he rejoined the roster of Columbia Artists Management, a leading talent agency for conductors that had previously represented him, a move that suggested he was positioning himself for more guest engagements once his commitments in Florida were dispatched.
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- July 2, 2012 / 10:27 am
- conductor - Resignation