The face of the Pittsburgh Symphony for more than 20 years is moving on. The orchestra announced yesterday that its esteemed concertmaster Andres Cardenes will leave after the 2009-10 season.
"There are certain things I have to have in my life now," he said. "I have been setting the table for 10 years about this."
Indeed, the move was not unexpected. When Cardenes signed a five-year contract with the PSO two years ago, he said, "There is a finite aspect for everything and I have a lot of aspirations. A lot of concertmasters basically died in their chairs, and I don't plan to."
Those aspirations finally pushed him to pursue other artistic opportunities. He will have logged 21 seasons in the top chair of the PSO, serving as concertmaster for more than a dozen recordings and hundreds of concerts in Pittsburgh and afar.
"He is a great artist, a great soloist and a great leader, and he really cares about the community," said Larry Tamburri, PSO president. "We don't want to see him go and we wish him well."
"I am a great admirer of Andres," said PSO music director Manfred Honeck. "I am a little bit sad that he has to make this decision. For a person in authority like Andres, you could have these people 200 years."
Cardenes, 51, already has plans for his post-PSO career, including finishing an ambitious recording project of 25 concertos over several CDs and labels, conducting and soloing internationally, teaching and playing chamber music. The violinist also will continue to perform with the Diaz Trio, along with violist Roberto Diaz, president of the Curtis Institute of Music. Diaz is one of Cardenes' closest friends and said that the violinist had struggled with the move many times in recent years.
"While it is wonderful to see all he has done for the Pittsburgh Symphony and its community for so many years," Diaz said, "I certainly understand and applaud his decision to explore other outlets for his creative and artistic energies."
Cardenes will continue "for the foreseeable future" to teach and maintain a studio at Carnegie Mellon University. He also teaches at the Curtis Institute, Toronto's Royal Conservatory, Shanghai Conservatory and Calgary's Mt. Royal College. He and his wife, violinist Monique Mead, run the Strings Music Festival in Steamboat Springs, Colo. Cardenes also is president of the jury of the Stradivarius International Violin Competition.
"I will be bloody busy," said Cardenes. "I expect everything to expand with the exception of teaching."
Lorin Maazel appointed Cardenes concertmaster in 1989, and he soloed with the orchestra in February of that year, in Barber's Violin Concerto, the first of many featured performances. In 1999, he further spread his wings and began to conduct more, highlighted by the formation of the Pittsburgh Symphony Chamber Orchestra, of which he is artistic director and conductor.
"I am proud of what I have done," Cardenes said. "I have given every ounce of my being as concertmaster to the organization. I am proud of working very hard to put together a library of bowings that had not existed before here."
While Cardenes will have full duties next season, including conducting a weekend of concerts in October, the PSO shortly will get a preview of life without him. Shoulder surgery will shelve him until April or May. But that procedure will give the PSO time to begin auditioning violinists for the post.
"We are gathering all the names together and trying to find good candidates [who] we believe have good chemistry for our orchestra," said Honeck. "I am sure we will have a good list. But it will be fantastic luck if we get authority and quality like Cardenes."
Classical music critic Andrew Druckenbrod can be reached at email@example.com.