The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra is in the middle of a lot of change. Their new home on West Wisconsin Avenue is on track to open in time for next season. Frank Almond, the orchestra's long time concertmaster, recently announced he’ll be stepping down after this season. And at the beginning of this season, the entire organization welcomed its newest music director, Ken-David Masur.
Masur is the son of German conductor Kurt Masur, the long time conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and later the music director of the New York Philharmonic. The younger Masur began piano studies at six years-old and sang in the Gewandhaus children’s choir from the age of nine. He made his conducting debut in 2004 at the National Orchestra of France and has since conducted the San Diego, Munich, and Boston Symphony orchestras, among others.
Masur first came to Milwaukee as a guest conductor for the MSO without any idea that the organization was even looking for a new music director.
"I performed with the chorus, the orchestra, and soloists from within the orchestra. I was thrown into this beautiful wide ranging program, from French to American to British music, and it was clear to me, this orchestra can do anything," recalls Masur.
This rewarding artistic experience turned into a chance to become the orchestra's music director once Edo de Waart announced his departure. "It was just a wonderful, very natural way of an encounter, of getting to know one another without pressure that you might have when you look for somebody new," he notes.
Masur says "it’s an extraordinarily exciting time for the orchestra, for the city, for the community."
"There's a true passion for what people are doing, a real commitment not just to this project or this organization, but to what it can do and what it will do for the city," he adds.
Masur's next performance with the MSO will be in November, with a concert of Beethoven and Schubert, and he is working hard to make sure the organization keeps its commitment to all audiences.
"We want everybody to feel that [the symphony] accessible, that it addresses them, that they can identify with it," says Masur. "We are privileged that through our music making we are given a level of trust by the audience that we have something important to say — we will use that."