Tom Strini

MSO extends de Waart’s contract five years

By - Apr 2nd, 2010 12:32 pm
Sign-up for the Urban Milwaukee daily email

The Milwaukee Symphony and music director Edo de Waart have agreed to extend their contract through the 2016-2017 season. Through that term, de Waart, who will turn 68 on June 1, will continue to conduct 12 of the orchestra’s 18 classical programs each year.

Edo de Waart in action. MSO photo by Todd Dacquisto.

Board chairman Chris Abele, VP and chief programming office Larry Tucker and de Waart started talking about an extension in October, in the flush of de Waart’s initial successes in Milwaukee and on a fall Wisconsin tour. That success has run straight through the season. The orchestra is playing at a very high level and done extraordinarily well at the box office, with 14 sold-out nights so far, compared with eight for the entire 2009-2010 season. The MSO has already surpassed its budgeted single-ticket sales numbers, with five programs still to go. Subscriptions for next season are booming, more than 20% ahead of last year’s drive at this point in both revenue and numbers of new and renewing subscribers. New subscribers are up by 67%.

The MSO management regarded the initial signing of de Waart to replace the departing Andreas Delfs as a coup. De Waart is former music director of the San Francisco Symphony and the Minnesota Orchestra and has a big reputation in the U.S., Europe and Asia. He is also music director of the Hong Kong Philharmonic and will maintain that post. Milwaukee got him in large part because the conductor, a native of the Netherlands, lives in his wife’s hometown, Middleton, Wis.

The musicians, by and large, are thrilled with him. Last fall, one player told me that “this guy is like three steps better than anyone who’s ever stood in front of us.” In prepared statements, concertmaster Frank Almond said that “[de Waart’s appointment] is probably the most important artistic development in the orchestra’s history,” and principal bassoonist Ted Soluri siad “Working with a maestro of his caliber and experience has already begun to shape the orchestra and challenge us in new and exciting ways.

Financial terms were not disclosed, and public tax records for the non-profit orchestra for the new de Waart era are not yet available. My educated guess, based on Delfs’ salary, would be $400,000-$500,000 per year.

Also in a prepared statement, Abele said “De Waart’s contributions… have been heard in every MSO concert since the beginning of the season. The orchestra has been playing at an incredibly high level and the audience has taken notice. Extending maestro de Waart’s contract was an easy decision for the MSO board of directors.”

De Waart, by the way, is conducting in Milwaukee this Easter weekend. Click here for details and a preview.

Categories: Classical

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *