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Kalmar has been with the Oregon Symphony since 2003, and the 2020-21 season will be his last.

COURTESY PHOTO - Carlos Kalmar will lead the Oregon Symphony into the 2020-21 season, his final season, although he refrains from calling it 'retirement.' The symphony, meanwhile, has been doing a worldwide search for his replacement.

A worldwide search has been taking place and guest conductors have been brought in to audition to be the next music director, as the Oregon Symphony prepares for the end of the Carlos Kalmar era.

The good news is Kalmar, who has been at the helm since 2003, still has the rest of the current season and the 2020-21 season to lead the symphony.

The symphony announced its season highlights recently, with more to be added.

"It'll be a season like none other," said Scott Showalter, symphony president. "It'll be some of the most famous music in the canon, world premieres and collaborations.

"We tell the story of Carlos and the Oregon Symphony. Over the course of the year, Carlos will bring you music that moves him and us. Every piece of music has a story, and we'll hear these stories all season."

Kalmar considers it a special season in a long list of special seasons.

"My last season as music director of Oregon Symphony does not deter dramatically from years before," said Kalmar, whose contract ends after the 2020-21 season. "Very often when you have a music director who has a long tenure, they go out with a huge bang — bigger and better, and most exciting. I'm not interested in doing that; it's not designed as no other season just because I'm going away. The fact that I'm going away, it's like icing on the cake."

The season will include 18 classical programs, as the symphony plays the likes of "Carmina Burana" by Carl Orff, Dvorak, Rachmaninoff, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Mozart and Mahler.

In his penultimate concert, Kalmar returns to the piece that sparked Oregon's love for him at his 2001 Oregon Symphony debut: Schoenberg's heavenly orchestral arrangement of Brahms' "First Piano Quartet." And for his final concert as music director, he will conduct Mahler's epic "Symphony No. 9."

There'll be three SoundStories events that offer audiences a new musical lens on historic and contemporary issues:

• Austrian Jewish composer Hans Gál's escape from the Nazi regime left his flourishing career in shambles. Over three decades later, he composed "Triptych," an exuberant work that testifies to the power of resilience in the face of adversity.

• Oregon Symphony Creative Chair Gabriel Kahane grapples with the nature of convenience, privacy, free will and democracy in the digital era in his thoughtful, evocative new work "The Right to Be Forgotten."

• Hans Abrahamsen's atmospheric new piano concerto "Left, alone," performed using only the left hand, brings to light how physical disabilities and social isolation can transform the acts of composing and listening to music.

The Hans Gál event strikes close to Kalmar's heart, as his parents fled Austria for Uruguay during World War II.

Among the musical luminaries to join the symphony will be artist-in-residence and Austrian cello soloist Johannes Moser and Grammy-winning trumpeter Wynston Marsalis performing new commissions and jazz masterworks.

Kalmar, who turns 62 in a few weeks, doesn't mention the word "retirement," but that he'll "leave it open" what his next career move will be.

Of working with the symphony, he added, "it has been an absolute delight. We've put it on a totally different footing artistically."

For more information on the symphony lineup, see

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