The Seattle Symphony announced today that Danish conductor Thomas Dausgaard will become the orchestra’s next Music Director, beginning in the 2019–2020 season. Dausgaard will succeed current Music Director Ludovic Morlot whose tenure concludes after the 2018–2019 season.
Dausgaard has served as the Seattle Symphony’s Principal Guest Conductor since 2014. Additionally, he is Chief Conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Chief Conductor of the Swedish Chamber Orchestra (through 2019), Honorary Conductor of the Orchestra della Toscana, and Honorary Conductor of the Danish National Symphony, having previously served as its Principal Conductor from 2004–11.
“For several years, it has been clear that Thomas’ partnership with our musicians is grounded in deep mutual respect and admiration,” commented Leslie Jackson Chihuly, Seattle Symphony Board Chair. “His deepening relationship with the orchestra has produced some of the most electrifying concerts we’ve heard in Benaroya Hall these last few years. His work has been a wonderful complement to Ludovic’s exemplary artistic leadership. Ludovic and Thomas share many creative instincts which have shaped and contributed quite naturally to the exciting evolution of our music making. Thomas is simply the right leader for the next step in our artistic development. We greatly look forward to welcoming him to our Symphony family, and we know he will bring profound inspiration and warmth to our community.”
“Making music with the Seattle Symphony is very special to me,” shared Dausgaard. “Their inspiring artistry fuses generosity, team spirit, devotion and abandon. The orchestra is supported by an equally passionate board and administration, as well as a tremendous audience in the beautiful and acoustically stunning Benaroya Hall. I love the city of Seattle and the great natural beauty of this magical part of the world. So it is with deeply felt joy and honor that I look forward to becoming Music Director of the Seattle Symphony. My warmest thanks to my distinguished predecessors who took the orchestra to its present excellence — and to everybody now asking me to take the Seattle Symphony into the future.”
“This is a joyful outcome for the Seattle Symphony!” added President & CEO Simon Woods. “Thomas Dausgaard has evolved through his career into an artist of extraordinary insight, with all the musical and technical skills to translate his ideas into the most inspired music making. His relationship with the Seattle Symphony goes back over a decade, and for him to move from Principal Guest Conductor to Music Director represents a kind of organic artistic progression that is rare and treasurable. With his highly individual approach to programming, his deep history with recording and his experience as music director with a number of important European orchestras, he is in every way imaginable the perfect fit for our organization.”
Thomas Dausgaard’s close relationship with the Seattle Symphony began in 2003 with performances of Nielsen’s Fifth Symphony, giving Seattle audiences a first glimpse of his creativity and dynamism. Dausgaard’s first season as Principal Guest Conductor in 2014–2015 was marked by a three-week Sibelius Festival which celebrated the composer’s worldwide 100th birthday with performances of all seven of his symphonies. Since then, Dausgaard’s exhilarating and propulsive interpretations of symphonies by Mahler, Nielsen and Rachmaninov have inspired both orchestra and audiences, leading The Seattle Times to write, “The results are thrilling, with completely involved musicians playing for an unusually attentive audience, and a conductor who is a passionate advocate for music that is unapologetically beautiful,” and in another review, “You can tell by the wild cheering emanating from Benaroya Hall: Thomas Dausgaard is back in town.”
In Seattle, Dausgaard has made a point of exploring the “roots of inspiration” for composers and immersing the audience in unique, contextual experiences. In past seasons this has included local Finnish choirs spontaneously rising up out of the audience to sing Finlandia to great emotional effect during the Sibelius Festival, a chorus of alphorns in the Samuel & Althea Stroum Grand Lobby pre- and post-concert to demonstrate the sounds that Strauss was influenced by when he composed the Alpine Symphony, and the Portland-based vocal ensemble Cappella Romana singing Russian liturgical music to introduce Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Second Symphony to show the undercurrent of Gregorian chant that Rachmaninov would have heard as a child in the Russian Orthodox Church. In the current season Dausgaard will conduct two subscription programs beginning with an all-Brahms concert in January including the Haydn Variations, select Hungarian Dances, Liebeslieder Waltzes and Symphony No. 2, and in June he will conduct Sibelius’ monumental choral symphony Kullervo, presented alongside performances of traditional music by Finnish folk musicians.
A champion of contemporary music, Dausgaard conducted the American premiere of Snow by British composer Helen Grime in June 2017. Snow is part of an ongoing series of commissions in a project devised and launched by Dausgaard titled “Scottish Inspirations” with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. Enjoying connections with many of the leading composers of today, Dausgaard maintains long-term associations with Magnus Lindberg, Per Nørgård, Bent Sørensen, Sally Beamish and Hans Abrahamsen, among others, and with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra he is currently engaged in leading an ambitious multi-season commissioning project taking its inspiration from J.S. Bach’s Brandenbu
rg Concertos and featuring new work by Mark-Anthony Turnage, Olga Neuwirth, Anders Hillborg, Brett Dean, and American composers Steven Mackey and Uri Caine.
With over 70 albums to his name, Dausgaard joins one of America’s most recorded orchestras with its triumphant recent history including three Grammy Awards and rave reviews for many recordings on its own label, Seattle Symphony Media. Dausgaard’s projects with the Seattle Symphony include the 2016 live recording of Mahler’s Symphony No. 10 (performing version by Deryck Cooke), which was named Disc of the Year by Europadisc and nominated for a 2017 Gramophone Award with the review stating, “this exceptional issue from the Pacific Northwest ought to be a game-changer for all concerned.” Dausgaard’s latest Seattle Symphony Media live recording of Nielsen’s Symphonies No. 3, “Sinfonia espansiva,” and No. 4, “The Inextinguishable,” will be released on November 10. The Seattle Times review of the Fourth Symphony from that performance included this description, “Dausgaard underscored the drama in the mighty outbursts from nearly every section; elegant descending passages in thirds, broad unison statements, mysteriously hushed string passages and a blazing finale.”
Thomas Dausgaard was selected as the Harriet Overton Stimson Music Director following a 6-month search by an 11-member search committee comprised of musicians, board and staff and chaired by Seattle Symphony Board member Paul Leach.