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Louis Langrée Wraps Up a Quietly Transformative Era of Conducting

Langrée told the Cincinnati Symphony in 2021 that he wouldn’t renew his contract there beyond the 2023-24 season. That year, he was hired by President Emmanuel Macron of France to run the Opéra Comique; it was, Langrée said, the first job he had ever applied for.

His departure from Mostly Mozart, though, was blurrier. His contract there was set to conclude this summer, but there was no formal announcement about whether he would renew. The festival had gone dark in 2020, and by the time it would have come back, last year, Lincoln Center had a new artistic leader, Shanta Thake, who rolled out a summer series that included no festival proper and fewer performances than before by the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra. The 2019 edition was unceremoniously the festival’s last. How, Langrée said, could he renew for something that doesn’t exist?

Langrée didn’t want to say more about the end of his Mostly Mozart tenure — by any measure a triumph of ensemble-building and musical curiosity. He wanted to protect the players, and for the orchestra to continue. Recently, Jonathon Heyward was made its music director, an appointment that came with the news that the group’s name would change.

Thake said that, as a New Yorker who knows the Mostly Mozart orchestra as a beloved New York institution, she can see that going into Langrée’s final season, “they’re stronger than ever.” And there are still echt Langrée performances to come, like a pairing of Mozart’s C-minor Mass and a premiere by Amir ElSaffar, beginning July 25.

Langrée moved to Paris once he started at the Opéra Comique, and when he is working in the United States, his day begins early, with about three hours of meetings before rehearsal starts. It’s a challenge, but in the future, he will conduct less: Beyond his concerts in Cincinnati next season, he has only a couple of guest appearances.

In lieu of score study, he is now getting acquainted with the nonartistic side of his field, stressed now not about orchestral concerts, but about, say, the effect of inflation on the cost of running a theater.

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