Star Maestro With Russian Ties to Depart German Orchestra
The conductor Teodor Currentzis, who has been criticized since the start of the war in Ukraine because of his ties to a state-owned bank in Russia, will step down as chief conductor of a prominent German orchestra in 2025, the ensemble announced on Friday.
Currentzis, who has led the ensemble, the SWR Symphony Orchestra in Stuttgart, since 2018, will leave his post when his contract expires at the end of the 2024-25 season, the orchestra said. He will be replaced by François-Xavier Roth, who leads the Gürzenich Orchestra in Cologne, Germany.
The SWR Symphony Orchestra has faced pressure in recent months to cut ties with Currentzis because of his affiliation with VTB Bank, a Russian state-owned institution that has been sanctioned by the United States and other countries. VTB is the main sponsor of Currentzis’s longtime ensemble, MusicAeterna.
In a statement to The New York Times, the SWR said Currentzis’s departure had been decided last year and had nothing to do with concerns about his Russia ties.
“The announcement of today is not related to the discussion about the financing of MusicAeterna,” Matthias Claudi, a spokesman for SWR, said. He added that the orchestra hoped to continue to work with Currentzis after he steps down.
A representative for Currentzis did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Currentzis, 50, is one of classical music’s most prominent conductors. Since the start of the war, his career has been complicated by questions about Russian support, with some presenters canceling or postponing engagements. He has been denounced for his silence on the war and criticized for working with associates of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, including some who sit on the board of MusicAeterna’s foundation. Putin awarded Currentzis, who was born in Greece, citizenship by presidential decree in 2014.
Working to get beyond questions about his Russian benefactors, Currentzis announced in August that he would form a new international ensemble, called Utopia, with the support of donors outside Russia. The benefactors include a private foundation called Kunst und Kultur DM, which is affiliated with Dietrich Mateschitz, an Austrian businessman who is a founder of Red Bull. Beginning next month, Utopia will tour Europe, continuing through next year.
Currentzis has continued to perform with MusicAeterna, which he founded in Siberia in 2004, often before sold-out crowds.