Nicholas McGegan (courtesy of PBO)
Nicholas McGegan announced today that he will retire as Music Director of Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale (PBO) and the conclusion of the next (2019–20) season. For those who appreciate numbers with significant multiples, this means that, upon his retirement, he will have guided the organization for 35 years. At that time he will be designated Music Director Laureate at the beginning of the 2020–21 season in recognition of his many contributions to PBO.
Under McGegan’s leadership PBO has emerged as a significant asset to the Bay Area. This is not just a matter of his scholarly commitment to historically-informed performances. Rather, it involves the contagious positive energy he has been bringing to those performances so consistently for so long. He will also be appreciated for the way in which he could view the historical nature of the nineteenth century with the same insight and passions that he could summon to present music from earlier centuries. (Truth be told, I am actually a bit surprised that he never undertook a historically-informed performance of Arnold Schoenberg’s Opus 9 chamber symphony!)
Following up on today’s announcement, the PBO Board of Directors, led by President Kay Sprinkel Grace, and institutional leadership will convene to begin the search for a new Music Director. McGegan’s legacy of programming and presenting period music has set a very high bar. Those who attend PBO performances regularly have come to appreciate the height of that bar; and the Board will face quite a challenge in maintaining the standards that PBO audience have come to expect. Nevertheless, the climate for historically-informed performances has improved significantly since McGegan joined PBO in 1985; and the setting for the search for a new Music Director is a promising one.