Zukerman, who was appointed in 1999, surprised the classical world with his unusual decision last December to take an unannounced six-month leave "to rest and recharge" — during which period he kept numerous engagements to perform in other cities. He then ruffled more feathers with his comments about colleagues, telling the Orange County Register (California) in January, "In every orchestra, in every institution that has climbed to prominence quickly there's always going to be a few rotten apples. And they have created an atmosphere that has to be eradicated, quite frankly."
The NACO was understandably irked by his comments, which communications director Jayne Watson called "intemperate." Zukerman later apologized, however, and cut his sabbatical short to conduct concerts in Ottawa in May.
Now it all seems to be water under the bridge. Lawrence Vine, spokesman for the NACO musicians, said in a statement, "The musicians of the National Arts Centre Orchestra are looking forward to a renewed spirit of collaboration with Pinchas Zukerman. We are encouraged by his ongoing commitment to the artistic excellence of the orchestra. This reappointment represents an opportunity to offer our audiences an exciting new chapter in the history of the National Arts Centre Orchestra."
The decision to renew his contract was unanimously approved by the NAC board. President and chief executive officer Peter Herrndorf said, "Pinchas Zukerman is a unique artist in the world of classical music. The National Arts Centre benefits from his leadership on the podium, his extraordinary musical artistry as soloist, his profound commitment to music education and his commitment to annual touring with our orchestra."
For this part, Zukerman said he was "honored" to extend his contract. "Thanks to the dedication of my orchestra colleagues, we have been able to make a difference across Canada by reaching out to new and diverse communities to introduce them to the power and magic of music."
Christopher Deacon, managing director of the NAC Orchestra, called Zukerman's "boundless energy and passion" for performing and teaching "unprecedented in NAC history," adding, "In all my years at the NAC I have never seen a more hard-working music director."
Zukerman recently said that the orchestra needs a new concert hall in downtown Ottawa, although Watson told PlaybillArts in May that "plans are very preliminary and [the hall] might be 25 years away."
Zukerman is scheduled to lead 12 programs with the NACO in 2006-07, including a season-opening concert featuring pianist Yefim Bronfman, performances of the Verdi Requiem and a gala evening with Emanuel Ax, Yo-Yo Ma, and Gil Shaham. He will also perform as violist and violinist, and will lead a tour of Quebec in November.