Update: Boston starts search for a concertmaster

Update: Boston starts search for a concertmaster


norman lebrecht

September 12, 2019

Boston Symphony Orchestra has announced concertmaster Malcolm Lowe’s retirement, effective immediately.

Lowe, who was absent for a year with concussion after a street accident. returned some months ago to play in the rear of the section. In summer he was seen again playing in his old seat.

But the arrangement does not seem to have worked out and the curtain is about to fall on a 35-year career.

UPDATE: The BSO has brought forward its announcement:

Malcolm Lowe has announced that he will retire from his position as Boston Symphony Orchestra concertmaster after serving 35 years in the prestigious leadership role. Mr. Lowe joined the Boston Symphony Orchestra as concertmaster in 1984 under Seiji Ozawa’s music directorship, becoming the tenth concertmaster since the orchestra’s founding in 1881 and only its third since 1920. He retires from the position just prior to the opening concert of the 2019-20 BSO season on September 19.

Malcolm Lowe says: ‘I have decided that it is time for me to retire as the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s concertmaster and to begin a new adventure and artistic journey and listen to the voices that are beckoning me to do other things with the rest of my life.

‘From the bottom of my heart, I thank my orchestra colleagues and Andris Nelsons for their dedication and their ability to delve deeply into the music and ask the unanswerable questions—to find the voice that lifts music from the ordinary to an extraordinary living poetry. I will cherish forever the shared moments of everyday work, moments striving in our artistic search, practicing, trying to perfect, to contribute, to give meaning to our efforts, the music, our team, and our orchestra. I am also forever grateful to our generous audiences and donors for their incredible passion and support year after year, concert after concert—their enthusiasm never wanes.

‘My recovery to health and playing this summer at Tanglewood after a year’s absence due to a concussion injury has been one of my most satisfying accomplishments—truly a mountain conquered. I feel so blessed that I was able to meet this challenge and get back to full strength and power. Being able to perform again with all of my colleagues was a gift to me and I am so very grateful to all of them for their many kind words of support and encouragement.’

List of Concertmasters Since the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s Founding in 1881:
1984-2019 Malcolm Lowe
1962-1984 Joseph Silverstein
1920-1962 Richard Burgin
1918-1920 Fredric Fradkin
1910-1918 Anton Witek
1907-1908 Carl Wendling
1904-1907; 1908-1910 Willy Hess
1903-1904 Enrique Fernández Arbós
1885-1903 Franz Kneisel
1881-1885 Bernard (or Bernhard) Listemann


  • Gaffney Feskoe says:

    Sorry to hear of this news. It was encouraging to see ML take his seat again at the front desk.

    Now the search is on.

  • Amos says:

    It has already been announced in Boston. Regardless, imo the headline is in poor taste for a musician who has excelled since joining the BSO.

    • nimitta says:

      Amos: “…imo the headline is in poor taste…”

      I agree. Mr. Lebrecht, surely you are too intelligent to have missed the inevitable association between your phrase ‘head-hunt’ and the head injury that has forever altered this fine musician’s career.

      I cherish the extraordinary music-making I and my fellow Bostonians have been privileged to enjoy over the years from Malcolm Lowe and the band. Fare thee well, Malcolm – hear you around!

      • norman lebrecht says:

        Missed that altogether.

        • Amos says:

          Thank you for editing the title. If it hasn’t already been commented on by another reader I think it should also be stated that Mr. Lowe, as well as then Principal cello Jules Eskin, deserve recognition for speaking up when they felt that the artistic standards of the BSO were being neglected late in Seiji Ozawa’s tenure. There is no need to rehash the details but neither musician took the easy way out and both the orchestra and city are better off for their efforts.

        • nimitta says:

          I appreciate that you shared that, Norman, and updated the headline – good on you, mate.

  • Suzan McGovern says:

    It should be up to Malcolm Lowe if he is ready to retire or not. If it is his decision then thank you Malcolm for your great work and GOD be with you. If it is not Malcolm’s decision to retire now then SHAME on whomever made the decision.

  • Stereo says:

    Great leader. Enjoy your retirement

  • Jeff says:

    I saw several concerts of him playing this summer; he sounded fantastic and certainly could have gone on for at least several more years in his position if he wanted to. Wishing him a happy and fulfilling retirement!

  • Tom says:

    More than 35 years – “Lowe was concertmaster of the Regina Symphony Orchestra 1975-6 and of the Quebec Symphony Orchestra 1977-83.” (from The Canadian Encyclopedia)

  • Stephen Owades says:

    There’s a fine interview with Malcolm Lowe about his career in Boston and his decision to retire in the Boston Musical Intelligencer, well worth reading:

  • NYCGIRL says:

    Wishing him everything great.

  • Skippy says:

    The most prestigious concertmaster-ship in the US. Arguably, the world.

    Those auditions will be ferocious.