SALT LAKE CITY — Just a day before conducting the Utah Symphony’s season finale, music director Thierry Fischer has announced another finale of sorts: His plan to step down at the end of the 2021-22 season.
Fischer announced Thursday he will conclude his tenure with the Utah Symphony in August 2022, according to a news release. At that time, the Swiss conductor will have led the orchestra as music director for 13 years.
“I am deeply grateful for the rich musical partnership I have enjoyed with the members of this outstanding orchestra, and for the experiences we’ve shared as musical ambassadors to the people of Utah,” Fischer said in a news release. “My journey with the Utah Symphony has been remarkably fulfilling, and I am incredibly proud of all that we have accomplished together, whether in concert at Abravanel Hall, on recording, or on tour across the beautiful state of Utah and to Carnegie Hall.”
In September 2022, Fischer will assume the title of Music Director Emeritus, continuing his musical relationship with the orchestra through regular return engagements, according to the news release.
With today's announcement, the search for a new music director will likely begin soon, the Utah Symphony told the Deseret News.
“We haven’t started yet, obviously; it’s brand new news," said Paul Meecham, president and CEO of Utah Symphony | Utah Opera. “By making this announcement now, it gives us three full seasons, so that’s a good window of time. But there’s a lot of things still to be done, and he’s fully committed for all of that period of time, so that’s enough for now.”
Fischer debuted as a guest conductor with the Utah Symphony in October 2007, leading the orchestra in a performance of Hector Berlioz’s “Symphonie fantastique,” according to the news release. In 2009, he became the seventh music director in the Utah Symphony’s then-70-year history, following Keith Lockhart. His original contract was for just four years, but Fischer extended his contract twice.
The conductor has spearheaded a vibrant era for the orchestra over the past decade. In May of this year alone, he led the musicians in a performance of a brand new piececommemorating the transcontinental railroad’s 150th anniversary and furthered the symphony’s education efforts by conducting 250 high school students across the state in a performance of Igor Stravinksy’s “Firebird.”
Throughout Fischer’s leadership, the Utah Symphony expanded its reach by embarking on two statewide-tours that brought classical music to rural communities and major Utah landmarks, including the state’s five national parks. Fischer was actively involved in the musicians’ ongoing service project to bring music education to young musicians in Haiti and celebrated the symphony’s 75-year milestone with an anniversary concert at Carnegie Hall in April 2016.
Meecham, who joined the Utah Symphony as president and CEO in July 2016, was at that Carnegie Hall concert.
“I was a fan before I met him,” he told the Deseret News. “I’d been following the Utah Symphony and Thierry from a distance. … You notice who’s making musical news so to speak, and it was very evident that he’d made, through his leadership, incredible strides with the quality of the orchestra.”
During his time with the Utah Symphony, Fischer has developed creative programming, commissioning works from contemporary composers and championing lesser-known works, like French composer Olivier Messiaen’s “Des Canyons aux etoiles” (“From the Canyons to the Stars”). That piece, inspired by the composer’s visit to southern Utah in the 1970s, will be at the heart of the symphony’s upcoming 2019-20 season.
And as Fischer prepares to step down in a few years, it’s fitting that he pays homage to the state that has been his home for nearly a decade.
“After all these years here, what I wanted to celebrate is my love for the state, for the beauty,” he told the Deseret News. “I am still incredibly inspired by it. … Utah, it’s just paradise.”