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Music Director speaks out about his San Antonio Symphony contract termination

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Courtesy photo
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Last Friday, San Antonio Symphony management terminated Music Director Emeritus Sebastian Lang-Lessing’s contract that would have allowed him to come back to the city and direct a pair of concerts for the symphony in May.

While working here, Music Director Lang-Lessing stood right between symphony management and its now striking union musicians. But he was raised a musician and it’s clear where his sympathies lie.

“My solidarity goes to the musicians of the San Antonio Symphony,” he said.

As to who you should be worried about, Lang-Lessing said the musicians need your concern, not him.

“What they have been through is way worse. So my situation is just a small footnote,” he said.

This latest episode stems from the Musicians of the San Antonio Symphony — MOSAS — holding concerts at the First Baptist Church. They’ve been on strike and off the Tobin Center stage since late September, and their only symphony income has been from those Baptist Church engagements.

“These concerts that are happening at the First Baptist Church are just replacements, in case we are not performing as the San Antonio Symphony. I think everybody understands that,” he said.

A clause in Lang-Lessing’s contract forbids him from announcing a performance of a competing music entity within a certain distance of the city, and symphony management said he violated that clause. Managers claim he crossed the line when he announced that he would conduct the Baptist Church MOSAS performances on May 12 and 13. They said it was a technical violation because the San Antonio Symphony is scheduled to perform on those same nights at the Tobin. Barring a miracle, the symphony won’t perform at the Tobin, though, because they’re on strike.

This is where the whole thing falls apart,” Lang-Lessing said. “This is a San Antonio Symphony event in the eye of the community and in the perception of our patrons.”

Since the symphony musicians are on strike, and those concerts will likely be postponed in the coming days or weeks, Lang-Lessing maintains there’s no real basis in fact for the termination of his contract.

“It's a very malicious move. It doesn't prove that they're really working for the musicians,” he said.

Lang-Lessing says the only people hurt by this will be symphony musicians.

“I think this is really to be seen as a hostile action against the musicians more than against me,” he said. “Now you're undermining the efforts of the musicians to continue live music in San Antonio by doing something like this. It's a very strange message to potential donors and patrons.”

Lang-Lessing thinks symphony management is in a fight with itself because the other entities involved aren’t enemies to them.

“MOSAS is not the hostile organization to the San Antonio Symphony. I, as Music Director Emeritus, am not a hostile individual to the San Antonio Symphony,” Lang-Lessing said. “So what is the fight about? I don't understand it.”

Does he still plan on conducting those two concerts at the First Baptist Church?

“Of course. I just flew over to the United States to do so, and I'm planning to be in San Antonio for the entire period,” he said.

For those interested in attending, tickets can be found on MOSA’S social media. We reached out to symphony management but they declined to make a statement.

Texas Public Radio is supported by contributors to the Arts & Culture News Desk including The Guillermo Nicolas & Jim Foster Art Fund, Patricia Pratchett, and the V.H. McNutt Memorial Foundation.