Farewell for Now

Classical Music Features   Farewell for Now
Music director Andrew Litton leaves the Dallas Symphony after 12 years.

Music directors have a profound influence on how a symphony orchestra evolves and how the world perceives it. To this day there are some conductor-orchestra pairings that are inseparable in the minds of music lovers‹Szell/Cleveland, Ormandy/Philadelphia, Bernstein/New York, Koussevitzky/Boston‹even though those maestros are long dead and each orchestra has had several music directors since.

For the last 12 years, the names "Dallas Symphony" and "Andrew Litton" have been linked by critics, audiences, and the world's classical music community. No music director in the Dallas Symphony Orchestra's proud history has brought the DSO the kind of visibility Andrew Litton has. Together they have produced 26 different CDs, many of them centered on three composers who have been especially close to the maestro: Mahler, Shostakovich, and Gershwin. But the Litton-DSO discography also includes music by American masters such as Copland and Ives, world premiere recordings of music by Liebermann and Schwantner, and even a Christmas disc. Primarily made for the Dorian, Delos, and Hyperion labels, these recordings have enjoyed wide distribution and garnered many favorable reviews.

But the visibility Andrew Litton has brought the Dallas Symphony is not limited to compact discs. Fairly early in his tenure he acted as on-camera host and conductor of four special concerts for children‹called Amazing Music‹that aired on national television and have been used in classroom instruction by teachers nationwide. He also conducted a "serious" classical concert for PBS with music by Bernstein, Barber, and Beethoven, and a pops national telecast saluting George Gershwin, with guest stars Tommy Tune, Maureen McGovern, and Jubilant Sykes. He led one of the first live webcasts by an American orchestra during the DSO's centennial in 2000. And for two seasons Dallas Symphony concerts, most under his direction, were broadcast on a national network of classical radio stations coast-to-coast.

As effective as recordings, telecasts, and radio broadcasts are in reaching people beyond Dallas, an orchestra really doesn't have an international presence unless it tours. Litton was a strong advocate of touring even before he officially started as music director in June of 1994. He and the DSO played at New York's famed Carnegie Hall four times during his tenure (most recently in 2005). His connections helped make possible three European tours in seven years, with concerts in Vienna's Musikverein, Amsterdam's Concertgebouw, Berlin's Philharmonie, London's Royal Festival Hall, Munich's Gasteig Philharmonie, Frankfurt's Alte Oper, Zurich's Tonhalle, and other historic venues.

Litton's influence will continue to be felt in Dallas, not only because he will be returning annually to conduct, but because 25 of the DSO's current full-time musicians‹three of them principal players‹were hired by him during his 12 years as music director.

Not all of Andrew Litton's contributions to the Dallas Symphony are as tangible as compact discs or orchestra musicians. He became a part of the Dallas community as no DSO music director before him ever had. He established his residence here and has frequently been seen at the area's shops and restaurants. When greeted by Dallasites who bumped into him buying groceries or taking his family to dinner, he would unfailingly respond with warmth and enthusiasm, solidifying relationships or winning new friends for the Dallas Symphony.

Every music director-orchestra relationship has its term, and then it's time for both to move on to new opportunities. Litton's tenure as Dallas Symphony music director officially ends in May of 2006. But in some ways, conductors who have served as long and given as much as Andrew Litton has will always be part of the Dallas Symphony‹and the Dallas Symphony family will be the richer for it.

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