Maestro move: Masur’s son lands Chicago post

Ken-David Masur has been named principal conductor of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, effectively the training orchestra for the Chicago Symphony. He starts in September and will have three weeklong residencies a year.

Ken-David is also the incoming music director of the Milwaukee Symphony.

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  • No, the Civic Orchestra of Chicago is not the training orchestra for the Chicago Symphony. Auditions don’t work that way. It IS a very good orchestra, however.

    • There is quite a bit of information about the Chicago Civic and its relationship(s) with the CSO in William Barry Furlong’s book Season With Solti. It is unambiguously described as the training orchestra for the CSO, closely and officially tied economically and managerially with the CSO – and while as Patrick points out a member of the Civic still has to go through the usual audition process, at the time of that book 60% of the CSO members had come up through the ranks with the Civic.

      • Yes, the Civic is part of the Orchestral Association. Consists largely of students from the local universities (mainly Northwestern, I imagine). Given the CSO hires players from all over the world, and isn’t remotely as incestuous as Cleveland or Philly in terms of hiring from the local schools (Northwestern isn’t a feeder the way CIM or Curtis are), I’d be surprised if there are more than a handful of Civic alumni in today’s CSO, and I’d be really surprised if it was 60% back in the early 70s, though I’ll concede it was probably higher than now. Good book, though.

      • You are absolutely correct. And were this 1973, your references would be spot-on. However, less than a third of current CSO players are former Civic members (IIRC, it’s less than that); it is far more accurate to say, especially if you look at the hirings the Civic is proud to share on its website, that the Civic is a superb training orchestra and leave it at that.

    • My understanding has always been that it’s not the training orchestra for the CSO, but rather the training orchestra run by the CSO. Obviously you don’t have to play in Civic first to get a job in the CSO, just like you don’t have to go to Tanglewood to get a job in Boston — although if you’re good enough as a student/ young professional to get into one of those programs, then it’s likely you are good enough to be taken seriously at a high-level professional audition.

  • Patrick is right. The Civic is a very longstanding training orchestra administered by the Symphony organization. Its most recent conductor, Erina Yoshino, just advanced to become assistant conductor of the Philadelphia. This plan seems like a partial patch for this year’s season, as the Symphony has announced an international competition to select the next Solti Conducting Fellow, replacing Ms. Yoshino. https://cso.org/institute/young-musicians/solti-conducting-competition/. I suggest the Symphony brass and Mr. Ma consider using this moment and the recently resolved Symphony contract to reevaluate civic member compensation, and make the Civic the New World of the North it should and could easily be.

    • I would argue that one New World Symphony is already quite enough thank you very much.

      The primary problem in the U.S. orchestral world right now is most certainly not a lack of training, it’s a lack of funding for actual jobs (as well as lack of basic music education in k-12).

  • Bravo. It seems like a good fit for Maestro Masur as he settles into his position at the Milwaukee Symphony right up the road. Also a good chance for some added exposure for his considerable talent.

  • My Northwestern U Masters Thesis was a History of the Civic Orchestra to 1972. Available in the NU Music Library

  • Good news, he is very talented. I remember when he was a student at Columbia and conducted the student orchestra as well as a small ensemble that he established; he were terrific then and glad to see he is hitting his stride now

  • The Civic is now a far cry from the years when Gordon Peters led them in very ambitious programming, including the world premiere performance of Mahler 10 in the Clinton Carpenter completion. That’s not to say they aren’t good – yes; of course they are good. Very good.

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