Uncertainty around music director remains as Seattle Symphony announces 2022-23 season


The Seattle Symphony on Thursday announced its 2022-23 season, though it remains unclear whether that season will begin with or without a music director in place after the abrupt departure of former music director Thomas Dausgaard earlier this year.

The Symphony is in the early stages of searching for a successor to Dausgaard. According to Symphony President and CEO Krishna Thiagarajan, the organization is in the process of formulating the search committee, saying it’s important for the committee to have “strong representation by all constituencies” — pointing specifically to the board, staff and musicians. Thiagarajan said there will be more to say on the timeline and process of the search “in the not too distant future,” but declined to speak on it further.

“It’s really important for us to take this process without the pressure of time,” Thiagarajan said. “We’re going to be very mindful in this process.”

Thiagarajan said the Symphony is in “excellent condition” both financially and artistically, despite the sudden departure of Dausgaard and subsequent report in The New York Times in which Dausgaard said he felt “not safe” and “threatened” and that the culture of the organization had shifted to one “ruled by fear.”

Symphony board Chair Jon Rosen told The New York Times that Dausgaard’s allegations of a “hostile environment or that he was, in fact, unsafe” were inaccurate.

Thiagarajan said this week, “I’m really disappointed that Thomas Dausgaard chose those words.” He offered no further comments on Dausgaard’s departure beyond also refuting Dausgaard’s allegations.

In a statement sent earlier this year, Dausgaard declined to speak further about the details of his last few years at the Symphony, citing his contract. In that statement, he added that, while he doesn’t wish to share more about his reasons for leaving, “What I can say is that I left my job standing up for myself.” Reached in February, Dausgaard’s spokesperson added that the maestro emphasized that he still holds the Symphony’s musicians and the Seattle community “in the highest regard.”

As the Symphony moves forward, Thiagarajan said the organization has $6.8 million in reserve funds to help keep the organization stable over the next two years of trying to rebound from the pandemic. Thiagarajan pointed to an uptick in support from donors, leading to a nearly 30% growth in contributed support over the pandemic.

Without a music director at the helm, the Symphony is looking to others to help out on the artistic end as it prepares a season-opening concert on Sept. 17 that will be led by previous Symphony music director and conductor emeritus Ludovic Morlot.

Morlot has also taken up the baton this season for concerts that were to be led by Dausgaard, including the upcoming Mahler Symphony No. 6, and helped with some of the season planning. Unlike typical years where the season planning would include input from the organization’s music director, this year relied more on musician opinion and the thoughts of Raff Wilson, vice president of artistic planning, and his team. 

Thiagarajan also noted that much of the programming was also informed by projects that were part of the Symphony’s plans, but that needed to be reordered or postponed due to the pandemic.

Alongside classic works from Sibelius, Rachmaninov, Mendelssohn and Beethoven, the season features works from 25 living composers, including five commissions, four world premieres and two U.S. premieres. Select concerts will also be available for live and on-demand streaming through the Symphony’s streaming service, Seattle Symphony Live.

“We want to make sure that we not only support commissioning living composers with new works, but also keep performing works that need a second or third performance so that they become part of the major canon,” Thiagarajan said.

The season will feature Seattle Symphony debuts for conductors Osmo Vänskä, Kazem Abdullah (who conducted Seattle Opera’s streamed “Tosca” last summer) and composer Tan Dun, who will be conducting his work, “Buddha Passion,” which is inspired by Buddhist teachings and ancient caves located around the Chinese city of Dunhuang. Additionally, artist-in-residence Angelique Poteat will be premiering a new work and pianist Seong-Jin Cho will return for a solo recital after his Symphony debut in 2019.

Freelancer Gavin Borchert contributed to this report.


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