It sounds like a beautiful partnership will continue. The Houston Symphony announced Thursday that it is has extended music director Andrés Orozco-Estrada's contract another three years. Orozco-Estrada, who came to the symphony with much fanfare in 2013 and was almost immediately dubbed the "heartthrob maestro," will continue to lead the orchestra through the 2021-22 season.
Before the extension, Orozco-Estrada was in the middle of a five-year contract.
He is the fourth Houston Symphony music director to hold the Roy and Lillie Cullen Chair, a position endowed in perpetuity by The Cullen Foundation. He is the symphony's 15th music director, the first Hispanic conductor to assume the post in the orchestra's 104-year history (he hails from Colombia), and, at only 39, remains one of the youngest conductors of a major symphony.
In reporting on Orozco-Estrada's hiring in 2013, then CultureMap reporter Joel Luks noted his background was important for a musical organization furiously working to adjust to Houston's changing demographics. Luks wrote:
What's distinctive about Orozco-Estrada, on top of having a sexy, hyphenated name that both hint and dim his foreign provenance (let's not dismiss that benefit for marketing departments) is that he's lived the immigrant story so essential to appreciating Houston's ethos. His South American heritage speaks to a rapid demographic shift; and his European artistic pedigree appeases those needing a dose of Western authenticity in the leader of an art form that stems from Germany, France and Italy.
In a press release, Orozco-Estrada said he plans to continue "to explore inspiring new works and projects that allow us to embrace new and loyal audiences as well as further our artistic growth.” Soon after assuming the position in 2013, Orozco-Estrada told CultureMap he hoped to make the Houston Symphony one of the top five orchestras in the world.
Orozco-Estrada, who is known for his enthusiastic conducting style, will lead two programs this weekend marking the conclusion of his three-season cycle of all nine Beethoven symphonies, which began in his inaugural season. The orchestra will perform and Symphonies No. 6 & 7 and a new, semi-staged production of Beethoven's Fidelio on March 31 and April 2.
The announcement comes on the heels of the international release of the Houston Symphony’s and Orozco-Estrada’s most recent recording of Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9, part of a 3-disc series featuring Dvořák’s last four symphonies. It is Orozco-Estrada’s first commercial recording project with the orchestra.