This 2018-19 season Preu serves as music director designate and will conduct the January classical concerts featuring Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture, the world premiere of a Michael-Thomas Foumai piece, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade.
Meet Eckart Preu
Eckart Preu is the 2018-19 music director designate of the Portland Symphony Orchestra and will begin the 2019-20 season as music director. Eckart Preu is the outgoing music director of the Spokane Symphony (WA), the music director of the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra (CA) and music director of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra.
Previously, he held the positions of music director of the Stamford Symphony (CT), associate conductor of the Richmond Symphony (VA), resident conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra and the American Russian Young Artists Orchestra. In Europe, Preu served as music director of the Orchestre International de Paris.
Career highlights include performances at Carnegie Hall, the Sorbonne in Paris, a live broadcast with the Jerusalem Symphony, and his first commercial recording of the world premiere of “Letters from Lincoln” – a work commissioned by the Spokane Symphony from Michael Daugherty, featuring baritone soloist Thomas Hampson. He has collaborated with internationally-renowned soloists including Sarah Chang, Anne Akiko Meyers, Jean-Phillipe Collard, Vladimir Feltsman, Horacio Gutierrez, Leila Josefowicz, Louis Lortie, and Richard Stoltzman.
In addition, Preu has conducted the Jerusalem Symphony (Israel), Symphony Orchestra of Chile, Auckland Philharmonia (New Zealand), Radio Philharmonic of Slovenia, Pecs Philharmonic (Hungary), Varna Philharmonic (Bulgaria), and in Germany with the Jenaer Philharmoniker. Preu was a PSO guest conductor in the 2010-11 season.
A native of Germany, Preu came to the United States as the winner of the National Conducting Competition of the German Academic Exchange Service (1996) for graduate studies with Harold Farberman at the Hartt School of Music, where he also received the Karl Boehm Scholarship. In Germany, he earned a masters degree in conducting from the Hochschule für Musik in Weimar studying under Gunter Kahlert and Nicolas Pasquet. He also studied under Jean-Sebastien Bereau at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris in France. Preu’s education was made possible by scholarships from the Herbert von Karajan Foundation, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the French Ministry of Culture. In November 1998, Preu took third place at the International Competition for Young Conductors of the European Union in Spoleto, Italy. Preu currently resides in Spokane, WA with his wife and two daughters.
Music Director Search
Preu, one of three finalists for the music director position following an international search, drew praise from the musicians, trustees, search committee, PSO staff, and audience members; they responded to his infectious passion for music, his talent on the podium, his collaborative work style, and his commitment to the community.
Preu’s Portland performances also received favorable critical review. Of his choice to include Zemlinsky’s Die Seejungfrau (”The Mermaid”) in his March 2018 concert, Allan Kozinn, former music critic and culture writer for The New York Times, gave high marks in his Portland Press Herald review: “To devote the first half of a concert, in what amounts to a job audition, to a work that few in the audience will know, is itself a message: It tells us that Preu is willing to take a chance on a piece from outside the standard canon that he believes in and that he is confident that he can persuade both the orchestra and the audience to share his enthusiasm. It was a smart gamble.”
Carolyn Nishon, executive director of the PSO said, “Eckart Preu will be a strong partner and artistic leader for the Portland Symphony Orchestra. We are excited to see the relationship between him and the musicians grow, and we anticipate the incredible music they will create for and with our community. It is a thrilling time to be a part of the PSO.”
Preu is willing to take a chance on a piece from outside the standard canon that he believes in and that he is confident that he can persuade both the orchestra and the audience to share his enthusiasm.
The international search for the music director was led by the Music Director Search Committee consisting of PSO musicians (one musician from each instrument family and concertmaster), staff, trustees, and members of the community. They began their search in 2015 and received over 240 applications from men and women across the globe. Each finalist programmed, then conducted several concerts during the 2017-18 season, met with the orchestra and members of the community, as well as with the PSO staff and board. Musicians, trustees, staff, volunteers, and audience members were surveyed after each performance. The Music Director Search Committee exhaustively weighed all of the results against four key criteria: artistic quality, community relationships, lifelong musical learning, and organizational culture and stability.
I am excited to start planning for the future and reaching out to other artistic and non-artistic organizations across the community. But first and foremost, I am looking forward to making music with the musicians of this excellent ensemble and to sharing it with the people of Portland.
Tim Boulette, chair of the Search Committee, said, “In Eckart Preu, we found a conductor of extraordinary musicianship who possesses a remarkable ability to inspire and connect with musicians and audiences on and off the podium. He also brings extensive experience advancing orchestras to the next level, and an exciting vision for what the PSO can become. It is clear that Eckart is the right choice for the PSO.”
Charles Dimmick, PSO concertmaster, shared, “Eckart is a musician of substantial depth and integrity. He has an obvious chemistry with the orchestra, clear from his first guest appearance in 2010-11. I’m thrilled that he’ll be joining us in Portland, and I look forward to many years of making music with him.”
Eckart Preu said, “I am thrilled and honored to be chosen as the music director of the Portland Symphony. I remember the first moment I stepped in front of the orchestra very well – I felt the extraordinary quality of this orchestra immediately. It is a very giving orchestra, and the exceptional skill of the musicians, their passion, and commitment was palpable immediately. I was impressed by the expertise and dedication of the staff and board, and the enthusiasm of the audience. I am excited to start planning for the future and reaching out to other artistic and non-artistic organizations across the community. But first and foremost, I am looking forward to making music with the musicians of this excellent ensemble and to sharing it with the people of Portland.”