Houston Symphony President Robert A. Peiser and Executive Director and CEO Mark C. Hanson announced today that the Orchestra has selected Colombian-born, Vienna-trained conductor Andrés Orozco-Estrada as its next Music Director. Orozco-Estrada, who will occupy the Roy and Lillie Cullen Chair, will serve as Music Director Designate during the 2013-14 season and will begin a five-year contract in the 2014-15 season. Orozco-Estrada's appointment was formally announced on the Jones Hall stage today in front of several hundred people, including the orchestra, staff, board, local media and Houston's Mayor, the Honorable Annise D. Parker. The announcement event was also streamed live over the internet.
Mayor Parker said, "The City of Houston is thrilled to welcome Andrés as Music Director of our world-class Houston Symphony. Houston is a city filled with dynamic, talented, hard-working, and optimistic people. I congratulate the Houston Symphony for finding a Music Director who shares those traits and whose personal story fits right into our widely diverse and international community."
Orozco-Estrada, 35, was born in Medellin, Colombia, and began his musical studies in violin. He first conducted at age 15 when he was asked to lead his youth orchestra, and at 19 years old and speaking only Spanish, Orozco-Estrada traveled alone to Vienna in pursuit of furthering his studies of the art form. He entered the renowned Vienna Music Academy where he studied with Uroš Lajovic, pupil of the legendary Hans Swarowsky (student of Felix Weingartner, Richard Strauss, Schoenberg and Webern) and completed his degree with distinction, conducting the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra at the Vienna Musikverein. Currently, Orozco-Estrada is the Music Director of the Tonkünstler Orchestra, which also performs at the Vienna Musikverein, and he serves as Principal Conductor of the Basque National Orchestra (Orquesta Sinfónica de Euskadi) in San Sebastián, Spain, a position that he will relinquish in May 2013.
Orozco-Estrada is a dynamic young conductor, intensely musical, technically consummate, and detailed in his preparation and rehearsals. In concert, he radiates on the podium and has a special talent for sharing his admiration of music with his audience. With a South American heritage and European training steeped in the Viennese tradition, Orozco-Estrada is particularly noted for his performances of classical and Romantic Central European symphonic repertoire. He is also passionate about innovative concert formats and the performance of contemporary music, choral works, and opera. Off the podium, he is sincere, warm and approachable. A natural communicator, Orozco-Estrada is fluent in Spanish, German and English. He is the Houston Symphony's first Hispanic music director.
Orozco-Estrada made his debut with the Vienna Philharmonic in the Musikverein in 2010 replacing Esa-Pekka Salonen, and in 2012 he returned to replace Riccardo Muti. Both performances received critical praise with Orozco-Estrada proclaimed a "brilliant stand-in" (Wiener Zeitung), an "eminent talent (Die Presse), "stand-in worth his weight in gold" (Kurier) and "an inspired master of communication" (Der Standard). These Vienna Philharmonic engagements have resulted in Orozco-Estrada being invited to conduct the orchestra again during the 2015-16 season. Over the past two years, he has made highly successful debuts with prominent European orchestras including the Munich Philharmonic, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, City of Birmingham Orchestra, Orchestre Nationale de France and Frankfurt Radio Symphony.
"What an exciting moment in my life as a conductor and musician to be joining the Houston Symphony family as its next music director," said Orozco-Estrada. "I feel such a strong connection with the musicians and know that our relationship will be a very special one that produces beautiful and memorable performances for our audience. My focus will be on creating exceptional music, exciting and engaging as much of the community as possible, and raising the visibility and profile of the Houston Symphony throughout Houston and the world."
As the Houston Symphony's Music Director Designate in 2013-14, the Symphony's Centennial, Orozco-Estrada will conduct 13 concerts during four weekends of concerts: October 17-20, 2013; January 3-5, 2014; January 9-12, 2014; and April 17-19, 2014. During his five-year contract as Music Director, extending from the 2014-15 season through the 2018-19 season, he will be on the podium 12 weeks each season conducting a variety of classical subscription concerts at Jones Hall; free community performances; regional concerts in Sugar Land and at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands; the annual Opening Night Gala and other special concerts. He will also play key roles in long-range and season planning, fundraising, and community engagement activities, while also overseeing musician personnel decisions. Orozco-Estrada, his wife Julia and daughter Laura, currently reside in Vienna and look forward to adding a residence in Houston once he begins the new post.
"During our search process, the Houston Symphony has had the privilege of working with many, very talented conductors," said the Symphony's Executive Director and CEO Mark C. Hanson. "What immediately stood out about Andrés was his ability to inspire the orchestra to play at their absolute best. He will bring incredible energy, exemplary conducting technique, deep musical knowledge, exceptional communication skills, youthful exuberance and a strong commitment to broadening our audience base."
The selection caps a three-year pursuit led by a 12-member search committee comprised of Houston Symphony musicians, board members and staff.
"We spoke with many members of the Symphony family and Houston community about the qualities a music director should have," said Justice Brett Busby, chair of the search committee and vice president of Artistic Affairs for the Houston Symphony Board of Trustees. "The committee's hard work confirmed that Andrés brings a special combination of talents that is an excellent fit for us."
The musicians were leading partners during the search, providing valuable feedback on every guest conductor. Orozco-Estrada only recently debuted with the Houston Symphony in October 2012, but the connection with the orchestra and audience was immediate.
"The chemistry between Andrés and the musicians was off the charts," said Busby. "Following his debut with us in October, the orchestra asked that we immediately bring him back to further test the compatibility."
"I immediately felt a striking and energizing chemistry between Andrés and the orchestra," said Principal Second Violin Jennifer Owen. "There was an overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic response from the musicians during his first week with us, and if anything, the musicians were more excited following our second encounter with him. We are looking forward to some thrilling performances for the orchestra and audience alike in the years ahead!"
Orozco-Estrada's appointment comes at a uniquely exciting time for the Houston Symphony. Current Music Director Hans Graf will relinquish the post in May following twelve successful years that included several high-profile Carnegie Hall performances, acclaimed recordings and international tours to the United Kingdom and Moscow. After his farewell, Graf will continue as Conductor Laureate of the Houston Symphony during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons. On February 6, the Symphony will announce its full Centennial Season lineup of concerts, community programs, and special events that will begin on June 1 and continue through May 31, 2014.
"We have found a rising conducting superstar, and I am so proud of the search committee and the full orchestra who worked collaboratively throughout this very important process," said Symphony Board President Robert A. Peiser. "Andrés is an exceptional musician who will excite our diverse community about live symphonic music and help expand our already substantial community programs. Building upon the tremendous accomplishments of Music Director Hans Graf, he will lead the Houston Symphony into its second century of sensational performances."
Orozco-Estrada will become the 16th music director in the Houston Symphony's near 100-year history. His predecessors include such notables as Leopold Stokowski (1955-61), Sir John Barbirolli (1961-67), Sir André Previn (1967-69), Lawrence Foster (1971-78), Sergiu Comissiona (1979-88), Christoph Eschenbach (1988-99) and Graf whose twelve-year tenure (2001-2013) makes him the longest serving music director in the orchestra's history.