Davis backs out of PSO concerts

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Andrew Davis is cutting out early. The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has agreed to let its artistic adviser out of the final season of his three-year contract, leaving five weekends of the current season on the table.

Leonard Slatkin, the PSO's principal guest conductor designate, has agreed to fill one of the vacated spots.

"In late September, Davis notified us that he decided he wanted to reduce his workload, which had been growing nationally and internationally," said PSO president Larry Tamburri.

"There are a lot of conductors who really like conducting our orchestra," he continued. "As we have been checking around to find people to take on some of the dates, we have been really pleased with the conductors we have been able to get so far."

While incoming music director Manfred Honeck cannot be one of them, the PSO has been able to secure a commitment from Slatkin, who again comes to the aid of the orchestra. He will conduct the concerts Dec. 7 and 9, with Mozart's Symphony No. 39 being replaced by his Symphony No. 41.

The PSO dates now without a conductor are March 14-15, April 11-13, April 18, 20 and the season finale, June 13-15, a performance of Brahms' "German Requiem." Tamburri said he suspected there may be more program changes, "but not a lot."

According to Lyric Opera of Chicago's season announcement, Davis had already been booked to conduct the company, for which he is music director, on March 14.

In the classical music industry, in which conductor contracts are generally set two years ahead of time, Davis' request to leave is relatively short notice.

"It is sad to see both sides dissolve their partnership so close to performance dates, although this is not unheard of in the field, especially toward the end of contracts," said Drew McManus, expert in the orchestra industry. "It's not bad for Pittsburgh because it still has a high artist clout level in the business. If they are able to bring in some really good conductors that just confirms that."

Davis said in a statement that he has enjoyed his time here and hopes to find other dates to return as a guest conductor. The statement continued, "The PSO has recently found its next music director and still has two excellent titled conductors in place for this season. With the orchestra in such good hands, it seemed like an opportune time to refocus my energies."

More programming switches

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra will switch Brahms symphonies in the next two Mellon Grand Classics concert weekends, Nov. 2-4 and Nov. 9-11.

On Nov. 2-4, the PSO will now perform Brahms' Symphony No. 3 along with several of his Hungarian Dances and Haydn's Cello Concerto in D Major with cellist Alisa Weilerstein. The previously scheduled Brahms Symphony No. 4 will now be heard the following weekend, along with additional Hungarian Dances and Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 with Nikolai Lugansky.

The PSO says the change is due to the process surrounding the recording of the programs for release next year.

Post-Gazette classical music critic Andrew Druckenbrod can be reached at adruckenbrod@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1750. He blogs at www.post-gazette.com/music/classicalmusings .


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