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Music director is terminated halfway through his contract

More troubles in Columbus, Ohio. They dragged the orch back from the brink of collapse and appointed a buzzy Canadian baton. But now they say he’s not spending enough time in town, and they’re looking for a replacement.

We hear the concertmaster’s seat is short-term, too. Read more here.


UPDATE: We’ve altered the headline verb after the conductor’s agent pointed out that the termination was by mutual agreement (it usually is, eventually at least). But ending a contract halfway through a first term doesn’t look good on anyone’s c.v.

conductor Jean-Marie Zeitouni

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  1. PK Miller says:

    I think it was an unrealistic expectation to expect someone of Zeitouni’s stature to devote his time exclusively with the Columbus Orchestra. I am surprise the Albany Symphony (NY) Orchestra’s David Alan Miller has continued to devote the bulk of his time and talents to the ASO. The ease of air travel–one can be anywhere in the world in 8 hours maximum–makes it almost unrealistic to expect someone to devote his her entire time or the bulk of it to such an entity. They might be better off looking for an up and comer, perhaps someone in their own backyard. But if they don’t know what they (Columbus Orchestra collectively) want to be when they grow up they’re not going to find a Music Director that’s going to be a good fit.

  2. One can be anywhere in the world in 8 hours maximum?
    Perhaps, if you only intend to check out the ‘World Series’.

  3. Bob Thomas says:

    The headline to this story is misleading, at best. Mutually agreeing not to renew a contract is not, IMHO, “severing a contract halfway through.” There’s nothing particularly surprising about an up-and-coming conductor deciding to keep moving his career forward. Whether the Columbus orchestra can find a conductor who is open to making that city his home base and spending more than 12 weeks with the orchestra is open to question, but this story sounds like business as usual to me.

  4. Insider says:

    His contract was not “severed;” it was simply 4 years long and it was not renewed. Happens all the time. As a Columbus Symphony insider, I suspect this was JMZ’s decision, not the symphony’s. And the concertmaster’s seat has simply been unfilled for a few years; that happens all the time also. The question now is, will Columbus be able to find a great conductor (like JMZ) as their MD, who is willing to be in Columbus full time, or are they going to have to “settle” for something less? Only time will tell…

  5. Martin Bookspan says:

    As I recall, the Columbus orchestra had a devoted (and living in Columbus) conductor years ago in the person of Yuval Zaliuk. He has since gone on to a whole other–non musical–career.

  6. Ghillie Forrest says:

    They might give Remmereit a call. When he took Rochester he said he was glad to have a place he could put down some roots.

    As for Zeitouni: I have just added him to a short-list that is already active.

  7. Please correct the misleading headline on this post. As was pointed out in an earlier comment, the contract is being completed as agreed to by all the parties, and is not being “severed half way through his contract”.

  8. Emily Hamper says:

    Changing the verb to “terminated” does little to correct the situation. In fact, it could be construed as even more misleading. Why don’t you just put the truth in the headline, like the Columbus Dispatch?
    “Zeitouni to leave Columbus Symphony when contract expires”

    Much less provocative, but also much more respectful to both parties involved.

    • PK Miller says:

      I agree. It seems like a case of MUTUTAL dissatisfaction. Sometimes, things just don’t work out and there’s no “controversy,” no “scandal,” people come to a parting of the ways. Still remember a thousand years ago in the Navy where a certain resident was not working out in his specialty. He and the Department Chief had a couple of long talks. The Resident switched to another specialty and everyone lived happily ever after. Sometimes there’s mutual disillusionment, sometimes differing expectations. It’s called LIFE! And sometimes, one or the other–usually the hiring entity–needs to make the first move and decide the person in question needs to bang his/her drum elsewhere, do his her “thing” some place else. It does seem like the case here.

  9. Mr Lebrecht,

    This whole entry is reflecting badly on you, and your blog. As you well know, conductors and orchestras generally begin conversations regarding contract renewals two years before a contract is ending, This allows the orchestra time for a search, should the parties decide not to renew. (for information on conductor’s contract renewals, read the article on Muti and Chicago Symphony in yesterday’s New York Times).

    In your original headline (“severed”), in the correction (“terminated”), and in your explanation in the update today, you are exhibiting some of tendencies that this blog usually skewers. The news here is that an orchestra and a conductor have decided not to renew a contract after its initial four year term has been completed. There is mutual respect, and the article goes on to suggest that the Symphony is disappointed to see him go.

    But you persist in making it look like Zeitouni’s contract is being ended prematurely, and by the Orchestra’s choice. You also seem to want to create scandal, where none seems to exist.

    This is poor journalism, in my view, and beneath you and your usual standard I am very sorry to say, as I often enjoy your blog.

    The real story here, as reported continuously in this column, is the poor funding of orchestras in North America. While 12 weeks of rehearsing/ performing for a music director is common, many communities now want their music director to be a resident, and always visible for community building, fund raising etc. This is not an unreasonable approach, and I am sure many orchestras and conductors are trying to find new ways to respond to the challenges.

    But I guess that would not make as sensational a headline as you initially provided, and are trying to keep.

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