A Seemingly Impossible Beginning to a Glorious Finale

By: Aurelie Desmarais
Senior Director, Artistic Planning
Houston Symphony

Maestro Hans Graf

Photo credit: Bruce Bennett

When the calm of a beautiful morning was shattered on September 11, 2001, it seemed that all normal activity would cease. It was impossible to imagine that regular life would, or could, continue. Yet in the aftermath of this history-altering day, the instinct to move forward prevailed.

Obstacles, though seemingly trivial in the face of such tragedy, did abound. The first concert for Hans Graf as Music Director of the Houston Symphony took place on September 15, 2001, just 4 days after the terrorist attacks. All air traffic was grounded and it seemed that there would be no way to get Hans from Calgary to Houston in time for the Opening Night concert, let alone the rehearsals that preceded it.

Through creativity, persistence and lots of phone calls made by an industrious intern, we were able to locate a private plane that had been en route to Calgary, but was grounded at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport. Once air traffic was cleared to start again on September 13th, the first priority was given to flights that had been in progress. The private plane resumed its journey up to Calgary and, for its return trip, Margarita and Hans Graf were the passengers. At around midnight on September 13th, I received a call from Hans to assure me that he was safely on the ground in Houston!

Maestro Graf's baton

Photo credit: Bruce Bennett

The Opening Night concert and post-concert dinner was a balm to all. The collective experience of sharing that concert reminded everyone in attendance of the power of music to soothe, to heal, and to inspire optimism for the future. From the opening moments of that first concert, through a remarkable twelve year tenure, Hans will conclude his time as Music Director with two performances of the Mahler Resurrection Symphony on May 17 and 18, 2013. Resurrection is music that speaks to the soul about the human journey–full of joy, tribulation, longing and the quest for redemption. Hans will close his tenure, as he opened it, on a note of hope for the future.

-Aurelie Desmarais

In the video below, Aurelie Desmarais, Senior Director of Artistic Planning, speaks about Maestro Graf’s final month of concerts as Houston Symphony Music Director:

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Known for his wide range of repertoire and creative programming, distinguished Austrian conductor Hans Graf is the Houston Symphony’s 15th Music Director and is its longest serving music director. As one of today’s most highly respected musicians, he is a frequent guest with all of the major North American orchestras, and regularly conducts in the foremost concert halls of Europe, Japan and Australia.

Maestro Hans Graf will conduct the Houston Symphony in his final concerts as Music Director on May 17 and 18. Ending his 12-year tenure, Graf will celebrate with the orchestra, staff and patrons in a grand performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, Resurrection.
Click here for more information and tickets.

The preceding weekend, May 9, 11 and 12, 2013, Maestro Graf will lead the orchestra in it’s final classical subscription concert of the season, featuring Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with guest pianist Janina Fialkowska, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, Eroica.
Click here for more information and tickets.

Watch a video tribute to Maestro Graf, which is being shown before each of the concerts during his final month as Houston Symphony Music Director:

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