eckartpreuThe Long Beach Symphony made the announcement today that German-born Maestro Eckart Preu will take the helm as music director under a three-year contract to begin with the 2017-18 season.

The announcement was cheerfully made with a champagne toast at Boathouse on the Bay on Friday where Long Beach Symphony leaders, Mayor Robert Garcia and Preu himself raised a glass to the beginning of the promising relationship.

“If you think about an orchestra and a conductor, it’s like a chemical reaction,” Preu said during the celebratory event. “You put these two things together and three things can happen: nothing, and that happens all the time or, two, the whole thing blows up in your face, and that is not good either, or three, something beautiful happens. And that’s something exciting where both [entities] think, ‘This might actually work.’”

And work, it did. Following a mere three to four rehearsals and a concert, Preu made quite the impression on the organization.

“Eckart Preu’s execution of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony #4 at our June 4 Finale not only elevated the overall concert experience for our audience that night, but also excited our orchestra players,” said Symphony Board President, Irv Miller, in a statement. “Maestro Preu’s genuine spirit of collaboration, partnership, and adventure makes us confident that we have identified a Music Director who can take our Symphony to the next phase of its development.”

“In Eckart Preu, I have found a partner who shares a vision for a future that will deepen our programming, provide greater access to more residents, and further our artistic excellence,” said Long Beach Symphony Executive Director Kelly Ruggirello in a statement. 

Preu was born in Erfurt in East Germany, and attended the Dresdner Kreuzchor (Dresden Boys’ Choir) for eight years. Following careers as a soloist, rehearsal pianist and assistant conductor, Preu earned his master’s from the Hochschule fuer Musik in Weimar, went on to study in Paris at the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique, where he served as music director of the Orchestre International de Paris from 1993-95, according to the release.

In 1996, Preu won the National Conducting Competition of the German Academic Exchange Service, which led him to pursue his graduate studies at the Hartt School of Music in Connecticut. Preu became assistant conductor for the American Symphony Orchestra, and also held positions as principal conductor of the New Amsterdam (NY) Symphony Orchestra and associate conductor of the Richmond Symphony, among others, according to the release.


Photo by Asia Morris.

Preu moved to Washington in 2004 to become music director of the Spokane Symphony Orchestra, where, most recently, he worked with a local hip-hop collective, electro-pop duo and singer-songwriters to create original works for the symphony’s performance of Peter and the Wolf. Maestro Preu will continue on as music director of the Spokane Symphony, but will step down from his current position with the Stamford Symphony next year, while he serves as Long Beach Symphony’s music director designate for the 2016-17 season. He will enter his full time position as music director commencing the 2017-18 season.

“And there’s a certain amount of trust and risk involved, but what you really think about is what do we share,” Preu continued. “Do we have the same sense of adventure? That’s what I really like about this orchestra and this organization, that it’s not only built in excellence […] has a workaholic staff, a fantastic orchestra, but it also has this curiosity about what an orchestra in the 21st century can be like and should be like.”

Visit the Long Beach Symphony’s website here for information on the upcoming season and more.

Portrait courtesy of Long Beach Symphony.

Asia Morris is a Long Beach native covering arts and culture for the Long Beach Post. You can reach her @hugelandmass on Twitter and Instagram and at [email protected].