German concert pianist and conductor Lars Vogt has been announced as successor to Thomas Zehetmair as music director of Royal Northern Sinfonia.
Sage Gateshead say he will take up the appointment in September 2015.
However, he will be at the Gateshead venue on June 21 this year for a short welcome concert of chamber music with orchestra members and will then kick off the 2014-15 season on September 20 as music director designate with a programme of works by Brahms and Beethoven.
The 43-year-old was born in the German town Düren and started playing the piano at the age of six. He first came to public attention in 1990 when he came second in the prestigious Leeds International Piano Competition.
It was there that Simon Rattle, who was then leading the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra to great heights, told him: “In 10 years you will be a conductor. You have a conductor’s brain.”
Rattle, who mentored him, has seen his prediction come true. Vogt has conducted many great orchestras since then and on his website explains that, during the 2013-14 concert season, he continued to develop his new role as conductor and director from the keyboard. Thomas Zehetmair will conclude his 12-year spell with Royal Northern Sinfonia with a concert on June 13 at the Milton Court concert hall in London.
Critics, musicians and audience members have spoken highly of his time with the North East professional chamber orchestra.
Anthony Sargent, Sage Gateshead’s general director, said: “Following Thomas Zehetmair’s 12 revelatory years as our music director was always going to be a challenge, but in Lars Vogt’s profound depth and breadth of musicianship I’m certain we’ve found the right new direction for Royal Northern Sinfonia – in parallel with Thomas making periodic return visits as our new conductor laureate.”
Vogt, who has worked regularly with the orchestra in the past, most recently in January in the From Player to Podium series, also expressed delight.
He said: “I am thrilled with my first conducting appointment with Royal Northern Sinfonia.
“Whenever I have worked with this chamber orchestra, be it as soloist or as conductor, I’ve felt such a close connection and such an inspiring spirit of adventure with these wonderful musicians who have more and more become my close musical friends.
“Conducting feels like flying, with the force and energy of the music helping you to uplift the musicians around you. I can’t wait to continue this journey together over the next years.”
As a concert pianist, Vogt has performed with many of the world’s great orchestras but has struck up a special relationship with the Berlin Philharmonic, of which Sir Simon Rattle is now (and has been since 2002) principal conductor.
He also has a passion for opening up classical music to children, which echoes Sage Gateshead’s own mission.
In 2005, he set up a scheme called Rhapsody in School whereby world-class musicians work with youngsters in the classroom.
During the 2014-15 season, Royal Northern Sinfonia will perform a complete cycle of Beethoven symphonies, which it last undertook to great acclaim in 2008.
Visiting international stars will include harpsichordist and conductor Laurence Cummings, who will conduct a series of concerts of Bach’s music, pianist Paul Lewis and clarinettist Julian Bliss.
Sage Gateshead will also showcase the talents of its own orchestral stars with special performances by Bradley Creswick and Kyra Humphreys (violin), Juliette Bauso (flute) and Louisa Tuck (cello).