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Franz Welser-Möst’s tenure with Cleveland Orchestra to conclude in 2027

The Cleveland Orchestra Music Director Franz Welser-Möst conducts the orchestra at Severance.
Roger Mastroianni
The Cleveland Orchestra
Franz Welser-Möst will serve as music director of the Cleveland Orchestra until June 2027.

Austria-born conductor Franz Welser-Möst will be the longest serving music director of the Cleveland Orchestra when his current contract ends in June 2027. The orchestra announced Thursday he will not be extending his time in Cleveland beyond then.

“It was an outstanding run, and a long time, especially in the times we live in today in our business,” he said in an interview with Ideastream Public Media. “Twenty-five years is enough.”

Welser-Möst first conducted the Cleveland Orchestra in 1993, and nearly a decade later he began his tenure as music director. He’s hired more than half of the current musicians in the orchestra, which has enjoyed regular acclaim under his leadership.

“The greatest joy in this job is hiring people and watching them succeed,” he said.

Welser-Möst stepped away from the podium temporarily in the fall for medical treatment of a cancerous tumor. While he is back conducting this month, he said he will continue to receive immune therapy this year and both he and his doctors are optimistic about his health.

This week he leads the orchestra in “The Miraculous Mandarin” by Hungarian composer Béla Bartók.

Throughout his time in Cleveland, Welser-Möst has championed opera performances. In 2023, the orchestra presented the inaugural Mandel Opera and Humanities Festival centered around the American Dream and Giacomo Puccini’s “The Girl of the Golden West.” This year’s festival features performances of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.”

There are “many great messages in that piece, when it comes to humanity, to power, how you use power,” Welser-Möst said.

In addition to the opera, there will be other performances and art exhibits during the festival.

Under Welser-Möst’s leadership the orchestra also continues to focus on serving young audiences, from offering free concert admissions for youth under 18 to educational programs, such as classical music meditations for classrooms and concerts for schools.

“That's one of the things I'm actually proud of,” Welser-Möst said. “I'm the first music director since 1921 who actually has conducted the orchestra in a high school.”

Welser-Möst also has supported commissioning new classical works, which he said is another source of pride as music director, particularly with the young composers fellowship started in the late ‘90s.

“Never lose your curiosity,” he said about approaching contemporary music.

While Welser-Möst said he isn’t sure what’s ahead after his contract with the orchestra ends in 2027, he is looking forward to the remaining years in Cleveland.

“It’s such a privilege to serve that institution,” he said. “I feel that really every day.”

Carrie Wise is the deputy editor of arts and culture at Ideastream Public Media.