Maestro quits: Utah’s open to new faces

Maestro quits: Utah’s open to new faces


norman lebrecht

May 24, 2019

The Swiss conductor Thierry Fischer is stepping down in 2022 after 13 years in Utah.

From the press release:

Thierry Fischer today announced plans to conclude his tenure as Music Director of the Utah Symphony in August 2022. Upon stepping down at the end of the 2021–22 season, he will have led the Utah Symphony as Music Director for thirteen years, during which time he has revitalized the orchestra and raised its national and international profile through creative programming, renewed excellence in performance, and ambitious tours and recording projects. In September 2022, he will assume the title of Music Director Emeritus, in which capacity he will continue his musical relationship with the orchestra through regular return engagements.

“I am deeply grateful for the rich musical partnership I have enjoyed with the members of this outstanding orchestra, and for the experiences we’ve shared as musical ambassadors to the people of Utah,” said Mr. Fischer. “My journey with the Utah Symphony has been remarkably fulfilling, and I am incredibly proud of all that we have accomplished together, whether in concert at Abravanel Hall, on recording, or on tour across the beautiful state of Utah and to Carnegie Hall. Though this musical journey is far from over, with additional projects planned for seasons to come, I have decided to step down as Music Director upon the conclusion of my current contract in August 2022. I feel that the time will be ripe then for me to explore new musical horizons and for the orchestra to embrace a new vision that continues the extraordinary growth we have already achieved. It will be a great honor to assume the title of Music Director Emeritus at that time and a true pleasure to reunite with the orchestra in that capacity for many years to come.”

“Thierry has been the driving force behind the incredible artistic growth of this orchestra,” said Paul Meecham, President and CEO of Utah Symphony | Utah Opera. “Under his leadership the orchestra has risen to be truly exceptional and has become well known among prominent guest artists and conductors for its excellence and professionalism. Thierry has built a legacy here that will continue to benefit us for years to come.”



  • fflambeau says:

    From the look of things, he’s done a good job.

    I also think the number of years he has put in is just about right: not a life-time job which allows him and the orchestra to move on but ample time to “do his thing”.

    Too many maestros remain until their last breath. That’s a mistake for the maestro and the city/orchestra that employs them.

  • Amos says:

    What does it say about his predecessor Keith Lockhart (1998-2009) that those in charge describe the orchestra as having been revitalized since he left? The conductors of the Boston Pops have always recorded extensively and are regularly broadcast on TV but have never received much in the way of artistic respect; leading most of the BSO notwithstanding.

  • The View from America says:

    From what I’ve heard (from concert-goers in SLC), the tenure of this particular conductor has been distinctly underwhelming, and the next MD will likely be an improvement.

    • Herr Doktor says:

      Sorry, but that was not my experience when I heard the orchestra while visiting in Utah. I was impressed with Fischer when I heard him conduct the Boston Symphony Orchestra as a guest conductor, and I was no less impressed when I heard him with his orchestra. He’s someone I would like to hear more from.

  • Gregory Walz says:

    I am someone who resides in Salt Lake City, and has done so regularly since 1990. I have attended almost all of the concerts that music Thierry Fischer has conducted with the Utah Symphony in Utah, and the one in Carnegie Hall in 2016, so I say:

    The above comment bye The Voice in America is one of those absurdities one can routinely encounter from supposedly connected people that do in fact have no “sources” where they claim to have them, and just like to offer their unsupported opinions. I wonder if The View from America has ever attended a concert that Thierry Fischer has led anywhere in the world, listened to any delayed (by many months) live broadcasts by Utah’s KBYU FM 89.1 of his and the orchestra’s performances (Saturday mornings at 9:30 am Mountain Standard Time) with the Utah Symphony, or even listened to any of his many commercial recordings.

    In my opinion, based on the quality of the playing Fischer has elicited from the musicians, and the interpretations he has helped shape, week after week, year after year (since his first visit as guest conductor in late 2007), he is the most complete and successful music director the orchestra and organization have had since Maurice Abravanel. Just last night and the night before he led two performances of Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, Haydn’s Symphony No.9 (our ongoing Haydn symphony cycle), and Schnittke’s Moz-Art a la Haydn, with intensely focused but flexible articulation and phrasing. He has now led the orchestra in multiple performances of Haydn’s symphonies Nos.1-9 in idiomatic, fresh, refined, and compelling fashion, and has, of course, conducted all (but the “completed” No.10) the Mahler symphonies prior to these most recent performances. Mahler 1 last night, May 25, 2019 was truly rousing in its mix of the rustic and the refined, was thoroughly idiomatic in temperament and phrasing, and in the end evoked a joyous and transcendent power, as it can and should.

    Fischer and the orchestra and organization are world-class, have been for a number of years, and the audience applause for last night’s performances — even the faux eerie wit of the Schnittke — reveals The View from America’s “sources” to be astonishingly vapid and fairy-like, like a phantom “spy” that the came in from the non-existent cold. If you dare, just purchase, old-style on CD, or via Studio Master FLAC (24-bit, 96 kHz) download, our recent release of Saint-Saens’ Symphony No. 2 and Symphony in F Major, “Urbs Roma,” on Hyperion Records for a taste of Fischer and the orchestra’s verve, point, and elan.

  • Rich Patina says:

    An orchestra member told me that he played nice to get the gig and then turned into a tyrant. And one of the first moves he made was to fire the principal flute, who was the president of the Utah American Federation of Musicians local. Good riddance.

    • Herr Doktor says:

      I believe that at the root of much of the sniping against Thierry Fischer are angry musicians who are upset that he pushed out performers he felt needed to go. I have no stake in this battle, and can only share my experience from my own ears. Just before Fischer was appointed MD, I heard the Utah Symphony perform Bruckner’s 9th live with Skrowaczewski conducting. I thought prior to the concert that it would be a slam-dunk great performance, with a master Bruckner conductor near the end of his life leading an orchestra that he had played with in the past, in one of those few life-and-death works that really matters. I have all of Skrow’s Bruckner recordings, and in my opinion he is one of the all-time great Bruckner conductors.

      The real-world experience, however, was completely the opposite. The Utah Symphony seemed to dial it in. There was so little involvement in the playing that it was shocking, it was just notes, notes, notes, and it seemed like not an ounce of passion. And for a work like that, of all works! I was just mystified how Skrow could have allowed a performance like that under his baton, and then I said to myself, OK, the guy’s 90, and this is a guest conducting gig. There are limits to what he can accomplish. Obviously the orchestra is in need of major changes.

      Fast forward, I’ve heard Fischer lead the orchestra in Brahms’ 1st and Mahler’s 6th. Both were vibrant, impactful, and fully engaged performances. Night and day different from what I heard in Bruckner’s 9th before Fischer took over.

      I have no horse in this race. I’ve been incredibly impressed with Fischer’s concerts that I’ve heard, and he seems to me to be a serious, thoughtful musician who aims high and hits it. Is he hard to work with? I have no idea, but typically if one wants to achieve results on this scale, you’re going to have to get rid of dead wood. And my ears definitely told me in more than one concert I heard in Utah pre-Fischer is that there was a lot of dead wood needing removal.

    • Gregory Walz says:

      A most predictable response. Despite the detail, one could be forgiven for thinking that “Rich Patina” might not actually live in Salt Lake City — at least anymore — let alone attend any Utah Symphony performances on any regular basis, even those led by guest conductors. Basic logic even escapes this person’s grasp, as the final derogatory sentence does not indicate any understanding of the history of the last ten years of the Utah Symphony and Utah Opera as an organization.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      “Played nice until he got the gig”

      Guest conductors have no role in deciding who plays in the orchestra, and it is only when he got there that he became involved.

      Given there is no legal retirement age in the US, the only way to get people to leave who can no longer play (or perhaps, those who don’t bother practising once they are tenured) is to go through a very unpleasant process of demonstrating the musician can not play to the required standard. It really is horrible for everyone involved, and not all music directors want to go through the process, which can allow problems to fester.

      It may well be that T.Fischer was faced with serious problem in playing standards that had been ignored for too long.