After an extensive three-year search, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO) has selected a new music director to succeed Bramwell Tovey. Dutch conductor Otto Tausk will take over the position on July 1, 2018, for the VSO's 100th anniversary season. Mr. – or Maestro – Tausk will hold the interim title of "music director designate" until then.
"It's been an orchestra that's been led by Maestro Tovey in a fantastic way," Mr. Tausk said during an interview in Vancouver on Thursday. "So I'm just first of all hoping to carry on where the orchestra is. At the same time I think every conductor brings something different, something new, something personal, which makes a musician's life in an orchestra also interesting.
"So I will definitely bring different repertoire; I will bring different ways of looking at the repertoire, looking at the music, the way the orchestra plays it and the way the music is communicated to the audience. And at the same time, I'm so lucky to be in this position with an orchestra that has this fantastic way of playing already."
Mr. Tausk, 46, was born in Utrecht, the Netherlands. He started out as a violinist, but then discovered conducting by chance (or, one might say, fate) while preparing for a performance of Bach's St. Matthew Passion. "It's a classic story where a conductor was ill in rehearsal and somebody had to take over the rehearsal."
"I thought I would give it a go. I picked up the baton, I took the score and I tried to work through it and I just loved to do it; it was a new world that actually opened for me," said Mr. Tausk, who no longer plays the violin.
Since 2012, Mr. Tausk has been music director of the Orchestra and Opera of St. Gallen, Switzerland. From 2007 to 2012, he was music director with Holland Symfonia. For his work there, he was presented with the de Olifant prize by the city of Haarlem for his contribution to the arts in the Netherlands. Between 2004 and 2006, Mr. Tausk was assistant conductor at the Rotterdam Philharmonic.
He has also recorded and appeared internationally with the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Green Umbrella series, the Rotterdam Philharmonic, the Danish National Symphony Orchestra and the BBC's radio orchestras, among others.
Mr. Tausk made his debut with the VSO in January, 2016, and was immediately invited back for a return visit last month.
"Sometimes you come to an orchestra and you don't really know what to expect, because you don't know the group yet, you don't know the city, you don't know the hall," says Mr. Tausk. "But from the very first moment on there was this connection I felt with the musicians. … They have a lot of energy, they have a lot of ambition so that really triggered me to be the best I have to give."
It seems the VSO musicians had a similar experience.
"Right after the first rehearsal of his first visit, the musicians of the search committee immediately asked for him to be rebooked for the next season," Vern Griffiths, principal percussionist, chair of the orchestra artistic advisory committee and member of the music-director search committee, says in a statement.
"He is an exceptional musician with really clear vision for what he's working on right now, as well as vision for how he wants the orchestra to sound five years from now, and how to get there. He's demanding but respectful, hard-working but having fun at the same time."
The Grammy-winning Mr. Tovey will be a tough act to follow. The VSO's longest-serving music director is accomplished and charismatic and conducts around the world. Noting that, VSO president Kelly Tweeddale said in a statement that Mr. Tausk demonstrated extraordinary communication skills with both the orchestra and the audience. "His innate curiosity, attention to detail and passion for all forms of music made him the clear choice for our community."
Mr. Tausk's wife and two young sons – aged 7 and 12 – still live in the Netherlands and that will remain home base for the family, with the new VSO music director travelling between work and family.
"My experience so far is that actually being able to have those two lives … is very helpful for my profession. So when I'm travelling, when I'm conducting orchestras anywhere and I'm not distracted by making breakfast for the kids or something else, I find that that's the kind of freedom I need.
"And at the same time, when I am at home with my family, with my two sons, I think it's so important to really be there with them and not with my mind on the music I'm conducting that evening or tomorrow or next week or next year," said Mr. Tausk, whose travel expenses will be part of his compensation package.
Mr. Tausk will be scheduled to conduct the VSO during the 2017-18 season. As for his plans once he is installed in his new position, Mr. Tausk says he is interested in presenting both familiar and contemporary repertoire and continuing to work closely with the musicians.
"I try to be as open and communicative as I can; I try to be a conductor that is collaborating with musicians rather than being the boss who only thinks about himself. I try to see my music-making as something you do together. We need each other. The orchestra needs the conductor, the conductor needs the orchestra – and for the sole purpose of making a connection with the audience."