Batons at the Ready

Juraj Valčuha Named New Music Director of Houston Symphony

The Slovak conductor will pick up the baton from outgoing conductor Andrés Orozco-Estrada, who enters his final season behind the podium with the Bayou City orchestra this fall.

By Emma Schkloven July 14, 2021

Get those tissues ready, H-town classics lovers because Houston Symphony’s upcoming season is a bittersweet one. The 2021–2022 season will unfortunately mark the world-renowned company’s final turn with Music Director Andrés Orozco-Estrada. But, on a high note, we already know who’ll be taking up the baton once he makes his final bow on May 1, 2022.

Today, symphony leadership announced internationally acclaimed conductor Juraj Valčuha as its next music director.

“Juraj stood out for his evident chemistry with Symphony musicians and his commitment to musical excellence,”said John Mangum, Houston Symphony executive director and CEO, in a statement. “We know that he will build upon the work of the music directors before him to support the highest level of performance imaginable for our musicians.”

Valčuha (pronounced vahl-choo-hah), who currently serves as music director of the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, Italy, and first guest conductor of the Konzerthausorchester Berlin, isn’t a new face to the Bayou City either, having made his debut with the Houston Symphony as a guest conductor in 2011. He’s since brought his talents back to the city for both the 2017–2018 and 2020–2021 seasons.

“These musicians are open-minded and versatile, and I feel that we are in perfect harmony,” Valčuha said in a statement, calling his new role with the Symphony an honor. “We share a dedication to high artistic qualities and music making and I know we will create a unique and powerful musical experience for Symphony patrons.”

Valčuha will make a special guest appearance this season when he conducts Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, "Choral" next May. Then, he will make his first official appearance as music director that fall and return for nine weeks during the 2022–23 season. But before then, the orchestra will bid Orozco-Estrada, who broke boundaries as the orchestra’s first Latino music director and led the company for the past eight years, farewell with a proper sendoff. 

Houston Symphony kicks off its season September 11 with a special concert featuring superstar soprano Renée Fleming—a concert that will be conducted by POPS Principal Conductor Steven Reineke, who just extended his contract through the 2026–2027 season and who also leads the orchestra in Once Upon a Time: Alan Menken’s Broadway, which runs September 3–5. Orozco-Estrada will then make his return to the stage for the subscription Beethoven-focused opener, which runs September 17–19.

Other highlights in the already splendid season include a visit from Andrea Bocelli on October 21; Saint-Saëns’s musical menagerie, The Carnival of the Animals, next winter; and Orozco-Estrada’s final concert, Mahler’s monumental Symphony No. 2, next spring. There’s still a few classic and POPS concerts left to be announced, but so far, there’s nary a dull note in sight.

Tickets are currently available to subscribers. View the season (as currently announced) at