Music director Stefan Sanderling will not be renewing his contract with the Florida Orchestra at the end of the 2013-14 season.
Orchestra musicians were told of Sanderling's decision by board of trustees chairman Thomas Farquhar during a rehearsal Thursday afternoon at Mahaffey Theater. The board learned the news at its annual meeting Thursday night at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Tampa.
Orchestra president Michael Pastreich said that Sanderling's contract stipulates that he announce his intentions three years before the agreement expires. He added that the music director plans to complete the contract.
"He'll be with us for the next three years, which gives us a good chance to do a proper search for a new music director and have a smooth transition," Pastreich said.
Sanderling, 47, music director since the 2003-04 season, was not available for comment. He conducted his final concerts of the season May 13-15 and is now on a cruise.
"Eleven years is a pretty long time for a music director to be in one place," Pastreich said of what will be the length of Sanderling's tenure when he steps down. "He's done what he came to do."
Sanderling's predecessor, Jahja Ling, was music director from 1988-89 until 2001-02.
Sanderling, a native of Berlin, has a rich musical lineage. His father, Kurt Sanderling, was a legendary music director of orchestras in the former Soviet Union and East Germany, as well as a prized guest conductor in Great Britain and the United States. That family connection lent prestige to the Florida Orchestra.
With Sanderling on the podium, the orchestra concentrated on the standard repertoire, primarily because of the conservative taste of its audience, but also because the symphonies of Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner and the like are a forte of the German music director. His conducting of works by Shostakovich is another strength. Some of his contemporary programming has been successful as well, such as this month's brilliant performance of the Doctor Atomic Symphony by American composer John Adams.
But there have also been glitches that might have been prevented with better preparation, such as a pointless player piano soloist in Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, or the performance in January of T.K. Gruber's Frankenstein!!, ruined by a microphone malfunction.
With Sanderling as music director, the orchestra has filled seven principal player positions with fine talent: concertmaster Jeffrey Multer, associate concertmaster Nancy Chang, principal second violin Sarah Shellman, principal flute Clay Ellerbroek, principal oboe Katherine Young, principal bassoon Anthony Georgeson and principal horn Robert Rearden.
But the orchestra has struggled with financial problems, which led to the board and management cutting musicians' pay, as well as seeking to reduce the number of full-time players. All this clearly did not sit well with Sanderling.
The music director's compensation from the orchestra is not disclosed on its 2008 tax return, the latest available to the public. It is estimated that Sanderling, who owns a house in St. Petersburg, makes between $180,000 to $200,000 a year for artistic and administrative duties. He also is principal conductor of the Toledo Symphony Orchestra, which he led in a well-received performance this month at Carnegie Hall. He was music director of the symphony orchestra at the Chautauqua Institution, a summer festival in western New York, from 2008 through 2010.
The Florida Orchestra winds up its season with concerts Friday and Saturday under guest conductor Larry Rachleff.
John Fleming can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8716.