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Concertmaster Timothy Lees to Step Down Due to Injury


Lees will be named Concertmaster Emeritus and plans to return to the CSO as a member of the first violin section

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CINCINNATI – The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (CSO) announced that Timothy Lees is stepping down as Concertmaster, a title designated for the first-chair violin, at the conclusion of the 2017-18 season. Mr. Lees, who began his tenure with the CSO in June of 1998, will become Concertmaster Emeritus in September, remaining a member of the CSO’s first violin section.

Mr. Lees has been on leave since December due to ongoing medical issues related to a nerve injuryaffecting the fingers of his left hand. He has undergone cervical spine surgery and continues with a plethora of treatments including physical and occupational therapy. Mr. Lees has been on intermittent leave since the condition first arose in April of 2016, and though he was able to perform for the Orchestra’s tour to Asia in March of 2017 and again for the re-opening of the renovated Cincinnati Music Hall in October of last year, persisting symptoms resulted in his going back on leave in December.

“I continue to work hard, receive treatments and remain committed to my craft, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the community we serve,” said Mr. Lees. “While the timeline for my complete recovery is undetermined at this point, I look forward to returning to the Music Hall stage as a member of the CSO’s first violin section in the future. Given the important leadership role of the Concertmaster week in and week out coupled with these ongoing medical issues, I have made the decision to relinquish that title. After two decades, I am truly honored to be named Concertmaster Emeritus.”

The concertmaster of an orchestra plays a critical role, serving as a musical leader on stage and as an emissary to the music director and other conductors. This position is responsible for the unique qualities, style, sound and identity of the string section and conveys the conductor’s concept of phrasing and articulation to the rest of the ensemble.

Mr. Lees, who also teaches violin at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM), continues to privately teach and actively mentor fellows as part of the groundbreaking CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship, a program that provides an unparalleled two-year learning experience for graduate-level violin, viola, cello and double bass players from populations that are historically underrepresented in classical music.  The early success of this dynamic program is evidenced by Mr. Lees’ private student and member of the first class of Diversity Fellows, Vijeta Sathyaraj, who recently won a position with the National Symphony Orchestra.

“Tim is a wonderful musician and has played an integral role in Cincinnati’s musical life for 20 years” said CSO Music Director Louis Langrée. “We all are grateful to him for his legacy as Concertmaster of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and look forward to welcoming him back on stage as Concertmaster Emeritus in the first violin section.”

The Orchestra has experienced two decades of artistic triumphs as both the CSO and the Cincinnati Pops during Mr. Lees’ tenure in the Concertmaster role including tours, dozens of acclaimed recordings and thousands of concerts in Cincinnati. He was hired at age 28 as the ninth concertmaster in CSO history by the late Music Director Jesús López Cobos and won critical acclaim for his Carnegie Hall debut with the Orchestra performing Richard Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben in 1999. Mr. Lees played a crucial and vital role in the artistic trajectory of the CSO through his service on the search committees which resulted in the appointments of subsequent Music Directors Paavo Järvi and Louis Langrée.As a soloist he has been featured in over a dozen performances with the CSO performing a wide variety of repertoire ranging from Bach to Korngold. In addition, as a very prolific and passionate chamber musician, Mr. Lees has appeared numerous times with the CSO chamber players, the Linton Music Series, as a CCM faculty artist and a variety of venues in the United States and abroad.Also the concertmaster of the Cincinnati Pops, he played under Erich Kunzel until the conductor’s death in 2009 and John Morris Russell since 2011.

Due to ongoing medical issues, Mr. Lees is also withdrawing as the featured soloist for Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 on May 10 and 11 at Music Hall with Mr. Langrée and the CSO. The Orchestra will announce plans for those performances at a future date.

The CSO will hold auditions for Concertmaster in the coming season and will announce interim plans for that important position for the 2018-19 season in the near future. The Concertmaster chair was endowed by the late Anna Sinton Taft.