Charleston Symphony Orchestra Director, David Stahl, Dies

The long-time director of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra has died.

David Stahl died Sunday night after battling lymphoma for two months. He was 60.

Stahl served as music director for the CSO for 27 years. He's credited with making the orchestra a world-class program.

His friends and colleagues remember him as devoted family man and gifted musician.

"He had so much great energy in practice and in concert. In concert a great energy was coming off of him. His concerts were always exciting," said Yuriy Bekker, Concertmaster, CSO.

Stahl is survived by his three children. His wife passed away in September from cancer.

According to the Symphony, a memorial service for Maestro Stahl and his wife will be held Saturday, November 13, 2010, at 11 a.m. in the Historic Dock Street Theatre.

The following is a statement from the Symphony remembering David Stahl:

David Stahl, Music Director and Conductor of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra for 27 years, died yesterday after a valiant two-month battle with an aggressive form of lymphoma. His death follows that of his wife, Karen, who succumbed to breast cancer only a month ago after her own 14-year battle.

For nearly 27 years, Maestro Stahl played a catalytic role in a cultural and artistic renaissance in Charleston and established himself as one of the most influential and charismatic personalities in the South. He transformed the Charleston Symphony Orchestra into a great professional orchestra and leading cultural institution and received a national award for imaginative programming from the American Symphony Orchestra League. Maestro Stahl was also the Music Director and Chief Conductor of Munich's Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz opera house, where he raised the rank of the orchestra to major status and was named Munich's "man of the year."

"For 27 years, Maestro David Stahl has served as the driving force for symphonic music in Charleston and has provided countless magical moments for audiences of every age in leading the Charleston Symphony Orchestra. We all have been firsthand witnesses to his enormous talent and his infectious enthusiasm. He will be sorely missed," said Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr.

Stahl was extraordinarily proud of the transformation of the CSO from a metropolitan orchestra into a highly respected professional regional orchestra that not only provided performances of the highest quality to the Charleston community but also served as a launching pad for the careers of many of its musicians. Maestro Stahl was a great musical mentor and many former CSO musicians now occupy some of the most prestigious orchestra posts in their profession including the Concertmasters of the Amsterdam Concertgebouw and the Cincinnati Symphony, as well as positions in the symphonies in Houston, Seattle, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Charlotte, Dallas, Cleveland, Boston, and others.

"David has been the guiding hand for the orchestra for so many seasons that it would be easy to take his many talents for granted. That would be a mistake - David's talent was genuine, his love for the orchestra and the city was palpable, and his enthusiasm was contagious. We will miss his leadership and he will be very hard to replace," said CSO President Ted Legasey. "The entire orchestra family extends its deepest sympathies to David's children Sonya, Byron and Anna, and other Stahl family members."

After Hurricane Hugo devastated the Lowcountry in 1989, the Maestro led the way in lifting the community's spirit and helping to begin the healing process when the CSO presented a free concert at the foot of the US Custom House two weeks after the hurricane, in a performance that was telecast live statewide. Stahl's positive energy was infectious - the crowd was mesmerized.

For his long-standing commitment to the Charleston community and the State of South Carolina, Maestro Stahl received numerous awards and honors including the Elizabeth Verner Award, the Order of the Palmetto, an Honorary Doctorate from the College of Charleston, and the Governor's Palmetto Ambassador Award.

Ellen Dressler Moryl, Director of the City of Charleston Office of Cultural Affairs, a close colleague since his arrival in Charleston in 1983 and a frequent collaborator involving CSO appearances at Piccolo Spoleto beginning in 1995, praised his energy and musical vision. "David was an eternal optimist. He always emphasized the positive and he had a special ability to buoy the spirits of anyone facing an artistic challenge. This is a major loss to South Carolina's arts community. We will all miss him terribly."

The son of German Jewish refugees, David Stahl was born and educated in New York City, and made his Carnegie Hall debut at the age of 23 with the Youth Symphony Orchestra of New York. He then was invited by Seiji Ozawa to become one of the select conducting fellows at Tanglewood where he first worked with the man who would become his mentor and colleague, Leonard Bernstein.

The next year, Mr. Bernstein invited the 26-year-old to be Assistant Conductor of the New York Philharmonic and a few years later asked him to take over the music directorship of West Side Story on Broadway and for its European tour. After serving as Assistant Conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony for four seasons under Thomas Schippers, Mr. Bernstein again called on David Stahl to assist him when he made his legendary recording of West Side Story.

David Stahl and his wife, Karen, leave behind two children, Anna, 16, and Byron, 20. Also surviving David Stahl is Sonya, 29, a daughter from a previous marriage; his brother Robert; and his 90-year old father, Frank.