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Violinist Thomas Zehetmair named new SPCO artistic partner

Austrian violinist Thomas Zehetmair will be joining the St.

Austrian violinist Thomas Zehetmair will be joining the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra as an artistic partner next year, serving both as soloist and conductor, the SPCO announced today.

He is another world-class addition to the unique partnership program that the orchestra began years ago when it abandoned the traditional system run by a music director and became a kind of collective where the musicians call the shots.

Zehetmair, 47, is a multiple hitter. As a violinist, he has recorded or performed most of the standard repertoire, and he’s also a champion of new music. He’s also the founder, in 1994, of the Zehetmair Quartet, which plays all its music from memory and adds one new work to its repertoire every year. The quartet is particularly acclaimed for its recordings of works by Schumann, Bartok and Hindemith.

And since 2001, he’s also served as music director of Britain’s Northern Sinfonia, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary.

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Zehetmair performed with the SPCO during concerts in 1999 and 2003 and he reportedly clicked with the musicians. “Our musicians instantly agreed that a multiyear artistic partnership with him would be musically rewarding for them and for our audiences,” said SPCO Managing Director Sarah Lutman.

Zehetmair’s first concert with the SPCO will be next April, where he will conduct and perform Beethoven’s Concerto in D. He also will conduct works by Schubert, Webern and Krenek. There’s no word if Zehetmair’s wife, violinist Ruth Killius, is part of the package. She’s also a member of the Zehetmair Quartet.

The SPCO’s current artistic partners include Douglas Boyd, who just concluded his partnership last month; Roberto Abbado; Dawn Upshaw and Christian Zacharias. Zehetmair and conductor Edo de Waart are the newest additions, joining the SPCO during the 2010-11 season.