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May 10, 2021

Carlos Kalmar Named Director of Orchestral & Conducting Programs and Principal Conductor


Carlos Kalmar, in summer white jacket, outdoors in Chicago overlooking Millenium Park

‘Lofty expectations’ in store for iconic music director of Oregon Symphony, Chicago’s Grant Park Festival 

Uruguayan-born, Vienna-trained conductor will make his home in Cleveland

Following a three-year international search, the Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM) proudly announces that Carlos Kalmar has been named Director of Orchestral and Conducting Programs and Principal Conductor. Kalmar will begin his conducting and teaching duties at the venerable, University Circle-based conservatory of classical music as Director Designate on July 1, 2021.

Musicians from CIM’s orchestras welcomed Kalmar with musical fanfare today as the Institute introduced him to students, faculty, Trustees, Governing Members and community dignitaries at 11:30am.

“Our expectations for Carlos are as lofty as his own incredibly high artistic standards,” emphasized Paul W. Hogle, CIM President & CEO. “CIM’s students demand an elite level of orchestral training and preparation as they focus on achieving their career goals and aspirations. Carlos’ understanding of the demands of a modern professional orchestra will deepen our students’ experiences and certainly deliver on that expectation.”

In April, Kalmar stepped down from leading the Oregon Symphony after 18 years as its Music Director. He continues to serve as Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of Chicago’s Grant Park Music Festival, a position he has held since 2000. 

“The students and traditions of the Cleveland Institute of Music are very special,” reflected Kalmar. “And the goals I have are straightforward: together, we must represent, contribute to and advance CIM’s high standards of artistic excellence with an unwavering musical and personal integrity. I have been deeply impressed by the entire CIM community’s commitment to being the gold standard in orchestral ensemble preparation, training and artistic quality, and am honored to help lead these efforts. My visits to Cleveland have been inspiring, and my family and I are anxious to make our home in the ‘216’.”

Critics hail New York debut

During his uncommonly distinguished tenure in Portland, Kalmar made his New York debut at Carnegie Hall with the Oregon Symphony as part of the inaugural Spring for Music festival. Both his imaginative program, Music for a Time of War, and the performance itself were hailed by critics in The New York Times, New Yorker magazine and Musical America. The concert was recorded and released on the PentaTone label, subsequently earning two GRAMMY® Award nominations (Best Orchestral Performance and Best Engineered Album, Classical).

New Yorker magazine critic Alex Ross called the Carnegie Hall concert under Kalmar  “the highlight of the festival and one of the most gripping events of the current season” and praised the ingenuity of a program “that forces you to lean in rather than sit back – it demanded alertness.” Those verdicts were echoed by Sedgwick Clark, writing for Musical America, who described the performance of Vaughan Williams’ Fourth Symphony as “positively searing… with fearless edge-of-seat tempos… breathtakingly negotiated by all…”

Under Kalmar’s guidance the Oregon Symphony recorded subsequent albums on the PentaTone label – This England, featuring works by Britten, Vaughan Williams and Elgar; The Spirit of the American Range, with works by Copland, Piston and Antheil;  Haydn Symphonies 53, 64 & 96; and, most recently, Aspects of America: Pulitzer Edition which was nominated for a 2021 GRAMMY® Award in the Best Orchestral Performance category.

“Carlos has been an exemplary leader for the Oregon Symphony and the greater arts community,” says Scott Showalter, Oregon Symphony President and CEO. “The Cleveland Institute of Music now is fortunate to benefit from his many talents and experience. He will undoubtedly do great work for this storied institution.”

A regular guest conductor with major orchestras in America, Europe and Asia, Kalmar recently made subscription series debuts with the orchestras of Boston, Chicago and San Francisco. Past engagements have seen him on the podium with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra and New World Symphony, as well as the orchestras of Baltimore, Cincinnati, Dallas, Houston, Milwaukee, Nashville, Seattle and St. Louis.

Born in Uruguay to Austrian parents, Kalmar showed an early interest in music and began violin studies at the age of 6. By the time he was 15, his musical promise was such that his family moved back to Austria so he could study conducting with Karl Osterreicher at the Vienna Academy of Music. He has previously served as the chief conductor and artistic director of the Spanish Radio/Television Orchestra and Choir in Madrid as well as the music director for the Hamburg Symphony, the Stuttgart Philharmonic, Vienna’s Tonnkunsterorchester and the Anhaltisches Theater in Dessau, Germany.

‘In store for a remarkable partnership’

Kalmar’s responsibilities at CIM involve three components. First is the Orchestra Studies Program, where he will be the chief of orchestral studies, and will be the program’s leader in setting, challenging, enforcing and upholding the CIM standards. Next is Principal Conductor, where Kalmar will conduct CIM student ensembles and select guest conductors for orchestra and chamber orchestra concerts. And with the Conducting Program, Kalmar will conceive and design a formal program for young conductors, with a goal of teaching two or three promising conducting students annually.

“CIM’s students, current and future, are in store for a remarkable partnership,” said Robert Geho, chairman of the CIM Academic Affairs Committee, Chief Executive Officer of Cleveland-based bio-technology company Diasome Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and an alumnus of CIM.

“On campus, as CIM trains the future of classical music, we will experience Carlos’ rare ability to teach pre-professional musicians how to perform as top tier orchestral musicians through continual focus on intonation, rhythm and pulse, coherent and directional line, sound production and quality, chamber music-like balance, and entertainment/ audience values – all in the broader context of understanding and appreciating stylistic and historical perspective and integrity.

“Beyond that, CIM will encourage Carlos, while devoting primary energies to the Institute, to continue an American and international guest conducting schedule. We have also invited him to forge and strengthen relationships with other educational institutions across the country and around the world.”