Seattle Symphony’s CEO Simon Woods moves to LA Philharmonic

Former Royal Scottish National Orchestra Chief Executive Simon Woods is set to leave his role as President and CEO of Seattle Symphony. He’ll take up a new position at the Los Angeles Philharmonic in January 2018.

Seattle are looking far and wide for a successor to Woods who described the organisation as one “that knows what it stands for, knows where it’s headed and knows how to get there.”  One presumes he’s set it on its path, but has no desire to be the navigator in the car.

Since taking up the CEO and President role in 2011, UK born and educated Woods has worked closely with artistic director Ludovic Morlot, setting up an in-house record label – Seattle Symphony Media – as well as developing new ways for the organisation to help the homeless in Seattle.

That Seattle are sending news of management changes across the water speaks to the international reach the band now has. Whoever takes up the reins will need to recognise the importance of capitalising on that. 

Thomas Dausgaard announced as Seattle Symphony’s new Music Director

Danish conductor Thomas Dausgaard will become Seattle Symphony’s next Music Director in 2019 season (lucky them), succeeding current Music Director Ludovic Morlot.

Dausgaard is already Seattle Symphony’s Principal Guest Conductor since 2014, and juggles diary dates in his capacity as Chief Conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony and Swedish Chamber Orchestras, and as Honorary Conductor of the Orchestra della Toscana and Danish National Symphony.

His recording of Mahler 10 with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra was shortlisted in the Orchestral recording category at this year’s Gramophones. Dausgaard’s performances of Schubert’s Unfinished, Mahler 10, and Rachmaninov 2 at this year’s BBC Proms were compelling listens, securing the BBC Scottish Symphony’s important contribution to the UK orchestral scene. Dausgaard also has fantastic hair.

Thomas Dausgaard’s first appeared with the Seattle Symphony in 2003 was with performances of Nielsen’s Fifth Symphony.

His first season as Principal Guest Conductor in 2014–2015 saw him contribute to a three-week Sibelius Festival celebrating 100 years since the composer’s birth with performances of all seven of his symphonies.

Seattle Symphony Orchestra: Messiaen’s ‘Poemes pour Mi’ and ‘3 Petite liturgies de la Presence Divine’

Poemes pour Mi is the better of the two performances on Seattle Symphony Orchestra’s latest recording, released on 18 August 2017.

Written originally for piano and soprano and scored for orchestra and voice the following year, Poemes are exuberant and colourful settings of Messiaen’s own poetry exploring marital love, the experience of which was in no doubt informed by his marriage to violinist and composer Claire Delbos in June 1932.

That Delbos would go on to suffer multiple miscarriages and succumb to memory loss and live her life in a mental insitution after an operation, makes Poemes pour Mi a bittersweet listen.

In the Seattle Symphony recording, conductor Ludovic Morlot is efficient with his speeds, taking things at a swift pace from the start of the first song. In this way, Morlot’s work is reminiscent of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and Renee Fleming’s interpretation.

Where Morlot’s interpretation differs is the way in which the recording puts voice, wind, and percussion front and centre, casting the strings further back in the mix. This gives Seattle’s resulting spartan sound a hungrier more responsive feel. I think it works too.

In comparison, Boulez’s lusher sound generated by Cleveland Orchestra string section on the Deutsche Grammophon release from 1997, feels a lot heavier – in places a slightly more cumbersome. My preference is for the more agile sound Seattle have come up with.

That strategy pays off to a certain extent in the other work in the release – 3 Petite liturgies de la Presence Divine. There is a shimmering quality to the sound in places which gives this three movement vocal work an eerily alluring feel to it.

At times however there are places where the use of a boys choir over the women’s voices originally scored by Messiaen let’s the recording down a bit. In the high registers, usually at the ends of phrases, the intonation wavers a little.

Download details available via the Seattle Symphony Orchestra website.