Texas fires German maestro over ‘contract violation’

Texas fires German maestro over ‘contract violation’


norman lebrecht

April 18, 2022

The German conductor Sebastian Lang-Lessing has had his relationship terminated by the board of the San Antonio Symphony over what they describe as violations of a contract clause.

The specific clause allegedly violated is this: ‘Artists shall neither make nor announce any appearances in San Antonio, Texas within 60 days prior to or following the performance dates of the concerts.’

Musicians of the San Antonio Symphony have been on strike since September last year over plans to slash their pay and conditions.

Lang-Lessing was Music Director from 2010 to 2020, returning as Music Director Emeritus to conduct a couple of concerts each season. He lists his main residence as San Antonio and says he plans to make a statement.


  • christopher storey says:

    Sounds to me as though San Antonio is finished : no conductor ; no orchestra ; no music

    • Karl says:

      Maybe. It looked like the Springfield MA Symphony was dead too, but they are having a concert this Friday. Syracuse had a dead orchestra that rose again by managing themselves.

      • Classicalmusician says:

        Can’t compare these kind of orchestras. San Antonio was legit

        • Karl says:

          Springfield has a very fine orchestra and it has almost half the budget compared to San Antonio. The annual Springfield budget is approximately $1.8 million and the SSO has an endowment of approximately $6.5 million. The San Antonio Symphony has a $2.2 million endowment and an overall budget of roughly $5 million. Looks like they need to shrink down to Springfield size and budget. They can make it work too. Springfield has some excellent soloists even if they are not so well known. Claire Huangci is one of my favorites. Philippe Quint gave a memorable performance there a few years ago too. So did Rachel Barton Pine.

    • John says:

      FAR from dead…

  • CA says:

    So what exactly are the specifics of the violation? What concerts did her do or announce? “Artists” is plural–who are the others referred to in this clause if the word is not in singular form? This orchestra is and has been a hot mess forever. Decades. The management is inept and needs to go. Yesterday. It’s the musicians and their music director (and the attending public) who are being greatly harmed in my opinion by this ridiculous display of stubbornness and refusal to step aside for a new team, or at least a new commander in chief who will actually act on the fundraising requirement of the job and try to think outside the box. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. I might be over simplifying things quite a lot here but I think it’s a fair approximation of what has happened. All the while management has apparently been paid….

  • Paul Dawson says:

    What a bizarre clause. Gagged and embargoed for two months either side of a performance.

  • Sir David Geffen-Hall says:

    They should get Lang Lang to solo with Lang Lessing in a short short concert.

    • Nancy Cook-Monroe says:

      Great fundraiser, along with Dame Judi Dench singing “Send in the Clowns” as she did at the Royal Albert Hall.
      People would come from all over!

  • drummerman says:

    He announced a while ago that he was leaving, so what is there to “terminate?”

    • Mary says:

      He was engaged to conduct concerts with the San Antonio Symphony during the second week of May. Although our management has not yet gotten around to canceling those concerts or to notifying the artists that the performances are endangered, everyone knows that there is a 0% chance that those concerts will take place. So they have gone to the trouble of firing him from concerts that were never going to happen anyway, with the concomitant and entirely predictable bad press they are now receiving. Symphony Society leadership is the epitome of the self-own.

      It’s unclear to me whether they also intend to terminate his status as Music Director Emeritus.

      • Larry says:

        Back in the day, apparently Mark Twain got into a squabble with a school board – I don’t know the specifics. But Twain wrote: “In the beginning, God created idiots. That was for practice. Then he created school boards.”

        Just substitute “orchestra boards” for “school boards.”

        • Jennifer says:

          I so needed this! I am an educator. A music educator. I am constantly amazed by the arcane, plodding, restrictive , square thinking (or non) of “artistic” management.

      • Nancy says:

        As I learned today, patrons were called to notify them of cancellation of Sebastian’s concerts on the very day he was terminated. What gall to say his concerts were happening and reason for his firing. I have reason to believe that’s what they wanted all along.

  • Oscar Dodier says:

    They fired him because he publically supported MUSICIANS OF the San Antonio symphony mini concert series at one of local Baptist churches. Expell the board…and run the orchestra yourselves!!!!!!

    • drummerman says:

      I respect that he wanted to support the musicians but a music director should never — repeat, NEVER — make public statements, taking sides. All that is needed is to make a simple, innocuous statement like: “I look forward to a prompt resolution of issues so that we can all join together once again to bring wonderful music to our community.”

      No matter how you slice it, a music director is an employee, serving at the pleasure of the board. (Same, of course, as the executive director.)

  • Richard Bloesch says:

    So who is going to conduct the San Antonio Symphony Orchestra in June when the finalists for the Van Cliburn piano competition play their concertos?

  • Anon says:

    Why do European conductors keep wanting to work in the US? This guy is German. They have great, well run orchs in Germany. He’d be better off pretty much anywhere in the EU rather than with this disaster that San Antonio apparently is.

  • MLB says:

    What do you expect from the state of texass? It’s the ass hole of the USA.