When the calendar for the 30th-anniversary season of the Santa Fe Symphony and Chorus was released a few months back, something looked amiss. It wasn’t the lineup of events, since in its general contours the 2013-2014 season raises no eyebrows: 10 concerts from September through May, all but one of them on Sunday afternoon at the Lensic Performing Arts Center, plus another presentation in the Voyages of Discovery series the symphony gives in conjunction with the Santa Fe Institute. What looked strange was that the group’s long-time music director, Steven Smith, would occupy the podium for only two of those concerts, with the rest of the season mostly divvied up among a handful of young conductors who are little known to the general public but who figure on the “names to watch” list of orchestra managements. It looked like an audition year.
And that’s exactly what it is. Gregory W. Heltman, the orchestra’s founder and general director, confirmed to Pasatiempo that Smith’s tenure “ended at the end of the most recent season.” The parting of ways, he said, was unremarkable: “There’s no scandal or anything like that. He had been our music director for 14 seasons, which is an extraordinary tenure; most music directors stay in their positions from five to seven years. This has been a positive artistic collaboration over a decade and a half. He serves as the full-time music director of the Richmond [Virginia] Symphony and of the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, and that created time constraints. This is an opportunity for him to spend the time he needed for those groups.”
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