One of the leaders of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center has been named the new artistic director of La Musica Sarasota International Chamber Music Festival, signaling major changes to come to the organization.
Pianist Wu Han, who has performed six times for La Musica, will become only the second artistic director, succeeding Bruno Giuranna, who co-founded the organization with Derek Han in 1987. Wu Han performed at a concert memorial for Derek Han in April.
Derek Han, who died suddenly aged 63 last year, was the associate artistic director and widely expected to succeed Giuranna, 89, when he retires. Giuranna was named Artistic Director Emeritus.
Wu Han, who grew up in Taiwan, regularly performs and records with her husband, cellist David Finckel. Since 2004, they have been co-artistic directors of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, which began in 1969 with the opening of the Cultural Arts Complex in Manhattan.
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Her new appointment will not impact her relationship with all of New York, or several other organizations in which she has leadership roles.
“She is electric. She is exciting. She is bold. She’s thoughtful and she really strives to deliver the best,” said executive director Joan Sussman, who worked with Wu Han for several years at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. “She has relationships that we could never have and the board was just thrilled when she came out.”
Sussman said that after seeing downward trends in festival ticket sales over the past few years, board members decided “we had to change. We had to look for new artistic leadership, someone who had personality and visibility.
Giuranna has been unable to travel to the festival in recent years from his home in Italy because he is not vaccinated against the coronavirus, Sussman said.
As the organization prepares for its 37th season, “what we need now is not necessarily what was great 30 years ago or even three years ago. Covid changed everything and accelerated that decision,” Sussman said.
Wu Han was chosen during an informal search because the organization “wanted a leader who would bring about change in all dimensions of our institution and increase our visibility,” board chairman Bruce Lehman said. in a press release. “We chose Wu Han because of his breadth of reputation, his commitment to involving young musicians and audiences, and his pure love of the chamber music canon.”
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La Musica traditionally presents four chamber music concerts each April at the Sarasota Opera House in a format that has followed a similar pattern since its founding. This will change in the coming season.
In addition to the Chamber Music Society, Wu Han is a co-artist of the [email protected] Chamber Music Festival and Institute in California. She also helps schedule classical concerts for the Society of the Four Arts in Palm Beach.
In addition to her artistic leadership, Wu Han said she travels around 280 days a year for concerts, including the Chamber Music Society and some duet concerts with Finckel.
The next season of La Musica, which will add concerts in February and March, will be announced in the coming weeks, and the organization will introduce Wu Han to its subscribers and donors at a luncheon in mid-November.
In a phone interview, Wu Han said audiences should expect to see “a completely different set of musicians that I’ve hand-picked from around the world. What I hope to bring to you under my guidance is this which I think is the best in the whole world that Sarasota can hear. I totally believe that if someone comes to a concert and hears artistic excellence, they’ll say, “Wow, let me hear them all.”
Only three returning musicians are scheduled for the new season, including Wu Han and her husband. She said one program will be in association with the Van Cliburn Competition and another “comes straight from the Lincoln Center stage and specially tailored for my freshman year at La Musica.”
Wu Han said she had a thing for Sarasota and La Musica “because Derek Han was my dearest friend for a very long time.”
She said the concert seasons wouldn’t necessarily mimic those she schedules in other cities.
“I would design programs for what’s best for Sarasota, and after the first year, I’ll have the chance to hear the audience’s reaction to what I think to continue the journey to bring people closer to the greatness of this music,” she said.
Wu Han began musical studies in Taiwan and was playing concerts and winning competitions by the age of 12. She studied at the Hartt School in Connecticut and spent two summers at the Marlboro Music School and Festival. She has performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center and other major concert halls around the world.