Conductor suddenly quits in Seattle

Updated Jan. 16

Thomas Dausgaard, the Danish conductor who has been music director of the Seattle Symphony for 2½ seasons, has quit the post, submitting his resignation in an e-mail to the orchestra’s board president.

“My decision to step away at this moment when we’ve realized such collective artistic success is a result of these pandemic times, which centers the question for us all: [H]ow do we value our lives?” the conductor wrote in a statement included in a news release on his sudden departure, adding that “it is time for me to move on.”

In a Seattle Times article, Krishna Thiagarajan, president and CEO of the orchestra, told Gavin Borchert that “significant problems in travel” during the pandemic had limited Dausgaard’s ability to work with the orchestra. “I don’t know that I expected it, but I’m not sure I was totally surprised,” Thiagarajan said.

Dausgaard, who also is chief conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, had performed as a guest conductor in Seattle for nine years before his appointment as music director. He had been due to vacate the post at the end of the 2022-23 season, Borchert reports:

Norman Lebrecht, on his Slipped Disc blog, reports that Dausgaard also has canceled his next engagement with the Scottish orchestra:

Dausgaard and the Seattle Symphony board had been at odds for some time, The New York Times Javier C. Hernández reports.

“I felt personally not safe,” the conductor said. “I felt threatened.” He accused the orchestra administration “of repeatedly trying to silence and intimidate him,” Hernández reports, to which Jon Rosen, Seattles board president replied, “There’s no accuracy to any allegations that there was a hostile environment or that he was, in fact, unsafe.”

Douglas McLennan, writing for the Seattle news-cooperative website Post Alley, digs deeper into what one former Seattle Symphony board member describes as “a train wreck.” McLennan writes that Dausgaard’s exit follows many others: “In the past two-plus years, at least 58 employees of the roster of 89 listed in late 2018 programs – including seven of the eight senior management team – have left. The board shows a similar attrition; of 39 board members listed at the end of 2018, 27 have departed.”

The result, McLennan writes, has been a “draining of the orchestra’s human capital from bottom to the top of the institution.”

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