Stefan Sanderling, music director of the Florida Orchestra, vacated the position Saturday, two years before the end of his contract.
"His career has been taking off nicely around the world," said Michael Pastreich, orchestra president. "I think he needed the dates in order to build the relationships for his future."
Sanderling, 48, is in Europe and unavailable for comment.
Pastreich said Sanderling met with board chair Tom Farquhar about two months ago and asked to be released from his contract.
"When he met with (Farquhar), he thought about the fact there was some benefit for us to have more conductors come here as we look for another music director. We'll build the best of both worlds."
Sanderling will still serve as conductor emeritus and artistic adviser and will lead the orchestra in one Masterworks concert program each season over the next two years, through 2014.
Beginning next season, the orchestra will feature about a dozen guest conductors during its 2012-13 Masterworks series, including Andrew Grams, prior assistant conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra; Julian Kuerti, prior assistant conductor of the Boston Symphony; Sebastian Lang-Lessing, music director of the San Antonio Symphony Orchestra; Cristian Macelaru, associate conductor of The Philadelphia Orchestra; and Stuart Malina, principal guest conductor of The Florida Orchestra. Many of the conductors are potential candidates to replace Sanderling.
Pastreich said Sanderling has accomplished a lot during his tenure with the Florida Orchestra.
Many of the orchestra's principal musicians came onboard during his tenure. He also played a major role in rousing new concertgoers.
"Our audiences have been growing quite nicely over the last three years because of Stefan's leadership," Pastreich added. "We went into the largest international recessions in memory and we were able to come out of it a much stronger organization. We are one of the nation's most vibrant orchestras."
Sanderling also is credited with the cultural exchange between the orchestra and the National Orchestra of Cuba. As part of the relationship, Cuban director Enriquez Perez Mesa made a first-time visit to the United States to lead the Florida Orchestra in three concerts in May.
The concerts are part of a multiyear cultural exchange with the island nation that began with a visit to Havana in September by The Florida Orchestra's wind quartet.
Sanderling was scheduled to conduct the National Symphony Orchestra of Cuba next winter, but Pastreich said the orchestra will work with Cuban musicians to come up with another program.
Sanderling also serves as principal conductor and artistic adviser of the Toledo Symphony Orchestra, where he won praise from The New York Times for a May 2011 Carnegie Hall concert with the Toledo Symphony. The Times called the performance "brilliant ... a genuine coup for the orchestra and its gifted conductor."
Last year, Sanderling announced he wouldn't renew his contract after it expired at the end of the 2013-14 season.
"Change is a necessary element of personal and artistic growth and development," Sanderling said in a release. "My tenure here in Tampa Bay has been a wonderful opportunity for me. I'm very proud of what we've accomplished, and I look forward to three more exciting and productive seasons in collaboration with this very fine orchestra."
The board formed a search committee last summer when Sanderling announced his departure. They hope to find a replacement for him by the end of the 2013-14 season, Pastreich said.