Alsop to Baltimore?

Haydnseek
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Alsop to Baltimore?

Post by Haydnseek » Sat Jul 16, 2005 6:53 am

BSO musicians critical of end to director search

End 'premature' in music director hunt

By Tim Smith
Sun Music Critic

July 16, 2005

http://www.baltimoresun.com/features/li ... life-today

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra musicians yesterday issued a statement criticizing as "premature" the conclusion of a search for a new music director.

The unusual public protest came a day after news spread that Marin Alsop, the most prominent female conductor on the international music scene, is expected to be appointed next week to the post.

Alsop, 48, who led the Colorado Symphony for a dozen years and now serves as music director of the Bournemouth Symphony in England, would succeed Yuri Temirkanov, who announced in September that he will step down at the end of the 2005-2006 season.

"The orchestra members are unanimous in their view that the search process should continue," Jane Marvine, head of the BSO players committee, said yesterday, reading from a prepared text. "The musicians are very troubled by the fact that board members will be asked to make a crucial decision without having a reasonable opportunity to investigate and consider the issues being raised by the musicians."

Anthony Brandon, a BSO board member who served on the music director search committee, said he agreed with the orchestra's stand. "I am disappointed that the committee could not have continued its work in hopes of finding a music director who could be supported by the musicians," said Brandon, president and general manager of the public radio station WYPR.

Meanwhile, Alsop, who is on a cruise off the New England coast, said through a publicist yesterday that "I've looked forward to working with the world-class musicians of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra with a special excitement since the first time I conducted them, in a rehearsal of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring [in 2002]."

She described the musicians as "exceptional, committed and passionate about what they do. And, with the board and staff, they make a great team."

The pending appointment comes at a time when the BSO is facing an accumulated deficit of about $10 million and continued concerns about its future growth in Baltimore.

BSO president James Glicker said that Alsop would bring several strengths to the BSO.

"The main thing is artistic excellence," he said. "She is a world-renowned conductor who is well-respected in the industry. She's a real audience-builder. She has no qualms about mixing with donors and reaching out to them. She's a progressive. She's experimental. She's willing to explore different concert formats."

Glicker noted that Alsop's widely praised affinity for contemporary repertoire would "amplify a major facet of the BSO for 20 years. That will be great."

Alsop is already scheduled to record the Red Violin Concerto by John Corigliano with the orchestra and violinist Joshua Bell next summer for the Sony label. Her connections in the industry could lead to more recordings.

The musicians' statement yesterday did not refer to Alsop by name or mention any specific concerns about her.

The seven musician members of the 21-person search committee will attend Tuesday's board meeting and be permitted to explain their views. The orchestra has been told by management, Marvine said, "not to share written materials with the board members or to try to speak with them in advance of the Tuesday meeting."

Glicker said yesterday that "the board will take the musicians' feelings into consideration, I can assure you of that."

If, as expected, the board approves Alsop's hiring, Glicker expressed confidence that she would achieve a smooth relationship with the orchestra through "her personality on the podium. That's pretty compelling," he said. "And she has great people skills. I'm hoping that's going to win the day."

Copyright © 2005, The Baltimore Sun
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Post by Ralph » Sat Jul 16, 2005 7:57 am

From The New York Times:

July 16, 2005
Near a Breakthrough at the Baltimore Symphony
By JEREMY EICHLER

The conducting podiums of large American orchestras have historically been an all-male province, but the Baltimore Symphony may finally be changing that. On Wednesday, a 21-member search committee voted to make the American conductor Marin Alsop the orchestra's next music director. If her appointment is ratified by the orchestra's board on Tuesday, she will become the first woman to lead a major American orchestra.

Ms. Alsop, 48, is currently principal conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in England, but insiders have long speculated that a major American post was on its way. Her three-year contract with Baltimore, which has not been finalized, states that she would serve as music director designate starting in the 2006-7 season and begin her official tenure in the fall of 2007, said James Glicker, president and chief executive of the Baltimore Symphony. She would succeed Yuri Temirkanov, now in his sixth season with the orchestra.

"I'm absolutely thrilled," Ms. Alsop said yesterday from a cruise off the coast of New England. "I'm very honored to be able to be the first woman to have this position, and I'm hoping it will soon become a nonissue for the women who follow me."

Deborah Borda, president of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, said that if the appointment goes through, "it would be a great leap forward and a significant moment in American musical history."

It would be highly unusual for an orchestra's board to reject the recommendation of the search committee, which was headed by the board chairman and included six other board members, as well as orchestral staff, musicians and an outside consultant. Ms. Alsop's probable appointment was first reported yesterday in The Baltimore Sun.

Women have led smaller American orchestras, but never one of the 24 largest in the country when ranked by annual operating budgets, according to Julia Kirchhausen of the American Symphony Orchestra League. The Baltimore Symphony falls easily within that group, with an annual budget of $30 million.

Ms. Alsop's appointment would bring to a close a search that began in December and included an unusually high degree of consultation with audiences and the larger community. Opinion-canvassing efforts included three town-hall-style meetings where audience members discussed what they were looking for in a music director. The orchestra even hired a research firm to conduct a telephone poll of residents in the Baltimore area. "People wanted somebody who would be actively involved in the community, and who could bridge the gap between audience and performer," said Mr. Glicker, the orchestra's president and chief executive. "Marin fit those requirements and was an audience favorite from a survey point of view, and in ticket sales."

For her part, Ms. Alsop seems eager to build a substantial presence in Baltimore. Her contract stipulates a 14-week season each year with the orchestra, longer than Mr. Temirkanov's typical season of 11 to 12 weeks. She spoke of countering the trend of jet-setting maestros, and embracing an older model of a music director building a major presence in a city. A native New Yorker, Ms. Alsop cited Leonard Bernstein as an inspiration for how a conductor can connect with local audiences. In her own concerts, with the Bournemouth Symphony and with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, which she led for 12 years, she has been known to speak casually with audiences directly from the podium.

Her willingness to be involved with the community would no doubt be important; Mr. Glicker confirmed that in addition to her artistic work she would be expected to take a leadership role in fund-raising. The Baltimore Symphony has been dogged in recent years by fiscal problems, and after recently opening a second home in North Bethesda, Md., a suburb of Washington, the orchestra has an accumulated deficit of $12 million projected for 2006.

But Ms. Alsop seemed undaunted by the financial situation. "I look at it as a moment of opportunity rather than a moment of fear," she said. "Many orchestras these days are having fiscal problems. To me, that's the moment not to be conservative and hunker down. It's an opportunity to take intelligent risks. And make a statement, to really step out and differentiate yourself from every other orchestra with similar fiscal problems."

Her plans for the orchestra include taking on more recording projects, possibly by expanding a relationship she has built with the Naxos label, which in the fall will release the next installment of her critically acclaimed Brahms cycle with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Mr. Glicker said the orchestra also hopes to increase its online presence.

"I think it's a moment to assess what's possible, and to take a few chances, a few calculated risks," Ms. Alsop said. "In every orchestra I've been music director of, it's all been about calculated risk."
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Post by Peter Schenkman » Sat Jul 16, 2005 2:54 pm

I suppose it all boils down to, do you want someone with people skills, who can reach out to the community, talk to the audiences, raise funds, etc. etc. and be involved on these levels. Or do you want someone whose conducting skills, at least based on the Bartok and Brahms that I’ve heard on disc are of a higher order. The real question being, what’s an orchestra for anyway? Another point being if you involve a number of your orchestra’s musicians in the process and they seem to have come out and said it’s to early (I think the word used was “premature”) to stop the search one would think that they should be heeded, she isn’t going anywhere.

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Post by pizza » Sat Jul 16, 2005 3:35 pm

Peter Schenkman wrote:I suppose it all boils down to, do you want someone with people skills, who can reach out to the community, talk to the audiences, raise funds, etc. etc. and be involved on these levels. Or do you want someone whose conducting skills, at least based on the Bartok and Brahms that I’ve heard on disc are of a higher order. The real question being, what’s an orchestra for anyway? Another point being if you involve a number of your orchestra’s musicians in the process and they seem to have come out and said it’s to early (I think the word used was “premature”) to stop the search one would think that they should be heeded, she isn’t going anywhere.

Peter Schenkman
I think you want both. No prospective conductor can please everyone in advance, and no search committee in its right mind will judge a prospective candidate on the basis of a few recordings. From what I've heard and read of her conducting she's extremely competent. I think she'll be approved and will do well.

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Post by Peter Schenkman » Sat Jul 16, 2005 3:59 pm

I’ve been involved with symphony orchestras for literally my entire life; my father having been a conductor so I think I know how the system should function as best described by the words of Joni Mitchell, “Both sides now”. Very, very few of those acknowledged to be the great conductors would fit the criteria of both (Furtwangler raising funds!). Toscanini acknowledged to be probably the greatest conductor working in North America in the first half of the last century wouldn’t have made it to first base and his downfall would not have been his conducting. Fund raising and the like has traditionally been the responsibility and a function of the board of directors and management leaving the conductor who is, after all an employee of the board free to concentrate on what should be the primary function, making music and improving the quality of the orchestral performance. I think the members of the orchestra on the search committee are reacting to what they see in person as they work with her and quite obviously they have questions, which they don’t feel, have been addressed and they should be listened to. In my experience very few orchestral musicians spend time listening to recordings which in the case of the two that I’ve heard from Ms. Alsop are very much vin ordinaire anyway.

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Post by Ralph » Sat Jul 16, 2005 4:09 pm

pizza wrote:
Peter Schenkman wrote:I suppose it all boils down to, do you want someone with people skills, who can reach out to the community, talk to the audiences, raise funds, etc. etc. and be involved on these levels. Or do you want someone whose conducting skills, at least based on the Bartok and Brahms that I’ve heard on disc are of a higher order. The real question being, what’s an orchestra for anyway? Another point being if you involve a number of your orchestra’s musicians in the process and they seem to have come out and said it’s to early (I think the word used was “premature”) to stop the search one would think that they should be heeded, she isn’t going anywhere.

Peter Schenkman
I think you want both. No prospective conductor can please everyone in advance, and no search committee in its right mind will judge a prospective candidate on the basis of a few recordings. From what I've heard and read of her conducting she's extremely competent. I think she'll be approved and will do well.
*****

She hasn't had a major directorship and the experience will challenge her (if she gets the appointment). Perhaps she'll grow considerably, perhaps not. But her credentials to date merit this appointment.

My understanding is that involving the orchestra in the selection process is relatively new. Is it a truly substantial role or just inclusion for its own sake? I don't know.

When the faculty seeks a new dean for my school, invited candidates are scheduled to meet with any interested students for an hour or so and evaluation forms are available and are read. And have never influenced the faculty's vote one way or the other.
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Post by pizza » Sat Jul 16, 2005 4:26 pm

Peter Schenkman wrote:I’ve been involved with symphony orchestras for literally my entire life; my father having been a conductor so I think I know how the system should function as best described by the words of Joni Mitchell, “Both sides now”. Very, very few of those acknowledged to be the great conductors would fit the criteria of both (Furtwangler raising funds!). Toscanini acknowledged to be probably the greatest conductor working in North America in the first half of the last century wouldn’t have made it to first base and his downfall would not have been his conducting. Fund raising and the like has traditionally been the responsibility and a function of the board of directors and management leaving the conductor who is, after all an employee of the board free to concentrate on what should be the primary function, making music and improving the quality of the orchestral performance. I think the members of the orchestra on the search committee are reacting to what they see in person as they work with her and quite obviously they have questions, which they don’t feel, have been addressed and they should be listened to. In my experience very few orchestral musicians spend time listening to recordings which in the case of the two that I’ve heard from Ms. Alsop are very much vin ordinaire anyway.

Peter Schenkman
The orchestral world has changed considerably since the days of Furtwangler and Toscanini. The new realities require that music directors become involved in fund raising, public relations and other functions which the greats of 50 plus years ago wouldn't have touched. Besides, not every competent conductor will turn out to be "great" but if potential greatness was the only criteria for selection, most jobs would remained unfilled for years if not indefinitely.

There is a practical aspect to the selection process and it has to be acknowledged and dealt with in a rational way. As important as a few orchestra members are in that process, they do not constitute a veto nor should they. If Alsop can fill seats, reverse the deficit, make money for the orchestra and thus for the players and introduce new and interesting works into the orchestral repertoire, she will have served her purpose. Her basic competence isn't in question or she wouldn't be the prime candidate.

BTW, I've heard some of her Naxos Samuel Barber recordings and find them to be first rate.

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Post by Peter Schenkman » Sat Jul 16, 2005 4:53 pm

The orchestral world has indeed changed since the days of Weingartner, Toscanini, Furtwangler, Mengelberg, Stokowski, Walter, Kleiber (pere), Karajan, Klemperer, Krauss, Koussevitzky, and a host of others. All of those mentioned could conduct and I dare say that there is not a conductor in the world today who can be classed with any of those mentioned. All of those cited have left recordings of the Brahms Second Symphony; about as standard a part of the orchestra repertoire as you can find. In that company Ms. Alsop in the same work isn’t even a starter. Drop down a level to the likes of Abendroth, Szell, Leinsdorf, Ormandy, Kubelik, Sanderling, Kempe (not a bad lot either) who have recordings of the Brahms and the same comments apply. How much further down the food chain do we need go?

Involving the orchestra members in the selection process of choosing a new conductor has been with us for a while. Over the years it’s entered the bargaining language of most of the major North American orchestras. I would think that it would change from orchestra to orchestra in terms of its effectiveness. Toronto has used it in selecting its last three music directors and as one close to many of the orchestra members I get the feeling that they’re being listened to and I suppose that the fact that they’re not going public as they have in Baltimore (never a good sign) says something.


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Post by pizza » Sat Jul 16, 2005 5:25 pm

Peter Schenkman wrote:The orchestral world has indeed changed since the days of Weingartner, Toscanini, Furtwangler, Mengelberg, Stokowski, Walter, Kleiber (pere), Karajan, Klemperer, Krauss, Koussevitzky, and a host of others. All of those mentioned could conduct and I dare say that there is not a conductor in the world today who can be classed with any of those mentioned. All of those cited have left recordings of the Brahms Second Symphony; about as standard a part of the orchestra repertoire as you can find. In that company Ms. Alsop in the same work isn’t even a starter. Drop down a level to the likes of Abendroth, Szell, Leinsdorf, Ormandy, Kubelik, Sanderling, Kempe (not a bad lot either) who have recordings of the Brahms and the same comments apply. How much further down the food chain do we need go?

Involving the orchestra members in the selection process of choosing a new conductor has been with us for a while. Over the years it’s entered the bargaining language of most of the major North American orchestras. I would think that it would change from orchestra to orchestra in terms of its effectiveness. Toronto has used it in selecting its last three music directors and as one close to many of the orchestra members I get the feeling that they’re being listened to and I suppose that the fact that they’re not going public as they have in Baltimore (never a good sign) says something.


Peter Schenkman
There are plenty of conductors today who would run rings around many of those you've mentioned in modern and contemporary repertoire and there are many patrons today who refuse to subject themselves to endless programs of Brahms 2nds regardless of what you may hear from some of the entrenched boards of directors. That approach has already taken its toll on audiences. If the process is going to have any chance of flourishing, it has to change and become relevant to todays' audiences. MTT in San Francisco, and Salonen in Los Angeles have shown that innovative programming will draw audiences. I don't know where you consider them to be in the "food chain" but that's all a matter of subjectivity anyway. Besides, you can't hire Toscanini and friends any more. It's going to be the Alsops who will carry the ball or there won't be any game left to play.

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Post by Ralph » Sat Jul 16, 2005 6:52 pm

A female conductor like a female police officer or pilot or Army officer must be, simply, as good in her position as most men would be. That said, an orchestra that hires a female music director today gets a real benefit if that person can engage with the community of active and potential patrons. Kurt Masur in New York was very charismatic but he interacted largely with the wealthy and top tier of society.

That doesn't work well any more except for fundraising and there's little reason to believe that a breath of fresh air in Baltimore in the person of Maestra Alsop wouldn't be effective in that role.

Orchestras today reach out to their communities. The New York Philharmonic sponsors several school music programs and has other initiatives that may well pay out in the long if not the short run. Today's conductors must deal with today's audiences or possible new attendees who must be offered great quality of music-making which is not incompatible with imaginative programming.

I'm rooting for Ms. Alsop.
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Post by Peter Schenkman » Sat Jul 16, 2005 8:20 pm

Pizza wrote…”There are plenty of conductors today who would run rings around many of those you've mentioned in modern and contemporary repertoire”…. Your opinion, and as such you’re entitled but it would be nice if you did some rather basic homework before committing your position to a premise based on a house of cards, facts after all are of some use and believe me, I tend to deal with them. This will be my last post on the matter as I’ve said about everything I can or care to on the subject. My opinion on the conductors I named is simply that and is based on a lifetime of playing, studying and listening and I go with those opinions. Obviously none of the conductors cited were conducting music of the latter part of the last century as they were out of it before it was written, that is a given, the dates speak for themselves and indeed never should have been raised but since you chose to go there, here goes. I don’t have the time to go through each name on a blow by blow basis but I do believe that the mentioned Toscanini was conducting Debussy when it was virtually hot of the press as well as Wagner reasonably early on at Bayreuth to say nothing of a host of others, world premières of Puccini operas and God know what else, the facts are all there, go look them up for yourself. Kleiber conducted the world premiere of Wozzeck in Berlin. Stokowski and Koussevitzky lumped together have conducted many more first performances (and second and third) of important 20th century masterpieces (such as the Bartok Concerto for Orchestra) then Michael Tilson Thomas and Esa-Pekka Salonen, with all due respect, could ever dream of, Stokowski was legendary for introducing North American audiences to new works such as Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, Berg’s Wozzeck in a concert performance, Vaughn Williams Ninth Symphony and umpteen million others as well. Klemperer was equally legendary for his championing of music of his time, I refer you to the two volume biography by Heyworth which deals with the subject in detail, go read it and report back, once again the facts are there, don’t take my word but by all means go to the books, but please use something other then idle chatter to support your argument(s). Don’t be dismissive when it comes to the music of his time that the great Dutch conductor Willem Mengelberg introduced to the world, this data is more difficult to find on the web so I will spell some of it out as I would imagine much of this will come as something of a surprise. Mengelberg gave the world premiere of Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben on Oct. 26, 1899; the work was dedicated to Mr. Mengelberg. Mahler was a life long passion of Mengelberg, during that composers lifetime Mengelberg never played any work by Mahler that Mahler himself had not first introduced to Holland. Following the composers first performance Mengelberg would then himself conduct the same work(s) with his Concertgebouw Orchestra, often within the same season. Following Mahler’s death Mengelberg gave first performances in Holland of those works which Mahler had not conducted himself, Symphonies No. 6, 8 and 9, Das Lied von der Erde, Lieder eines Fahrenden Gesellen. Between 1904-1919 Mengelberg conducted 195 performances of the works of Gustav Mahler in Amsterdam including 14 performances of the rarely performed (today) Seventh Symphony. The list is to say, at the least impressive, indeed mind boggling. Symphony No. 1 (29), No. 2 (23), No. 3 (19), No. 4 (39) including the concert given on October 1904 consisting of that fourth symphony performed twice, before the interval Mahler on the podium after the interval, Mengelberg doing the honors. Symphony No. 5 (13), No. 6 (3), No. 7, (14), No. 8 (10), No. 9 (8), Das Lied von der Erde (20), Lieder Eines Fahrenden (4) and Kindertenlieder (11). For the period cited about thirteen performances of Mahler, very much “new music of his time” being performed. In the year 1920 Mengelberg celebrated his twenty-fifth season as Music Director of the Concertgebouw Orchestra by conducting all of Mahler’s works in a single consecutive series of concerts. The new music performances by Mengelberg hardly stop there, Debussy (1862-1918) received from Mengelberg between the years 1911-1919 over fifty performances. Other new composers performed by Mengelberg during is fifty year tenure with the Concertgebouw included besides those already mentioned Respighi, Wolf, Ravel, d’Indy, Enesco, Schoenberg, Kodaly, Elgar, Swtravinsky, Pfitzner, Hindemith, Casella, Bartok (world premiere of the violin concerto), Badings, Glazunov, Milhaud, Prokofiev, Nielsen and this is just the short list. Moral of the story, read before you leap. Additional moral being, if you take on a pot boiler such as Ms. Alsop has with the Brahms Second Symphony you should be prepared to walk into the lion’s den a walk that has, in this case hardly been successful, maybe, just maybe the orchestral musicians might know what they’re talking about.

Cheers!

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Post by GK » Sat Jul 16, 2005 9:39 pm

Zinman and Temirkanov are tough acts to follow. Does anyone know who else is under consideration?

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Post by pizza » Sun Jul 17, 2005 12:33 am

Peter:

I'm an avid reader of matters musical, have a large music library, use it often, and am fully aware of some of the introductions of new music and first performances by conductors that you've mentioned. I'm well aware of Stokowski's and Koussevitzky's innovative tendencies. I'm probably one of the few posters here who ever attended live Koussevitzky performances. And yes, of course the major conductors of the past were entrusted with world premieres. Who else would they have been given to? That's not exactly news.

However, if you look at the week-to-week programming of most of those you've mentioned, it was the same basic fare over and over again. Only a rare few ever programmed any American composers and none with any degree of regularity, even those of the first half of the 20th Century; when they did, it was mostly easy-on-the-ears fare. Same with important Latin American composers such as Chavez and Revueltas; yes, I know that a few pieces by Villa-Lobos were often played but other important composers such as Caturla, Roldan, Fernandez, Guarnieri, Estevez and Ginastera were almost completely ignored by conductors whose basic repertoire was 18th and 19th Century European Classic and Romantic music.

Since you mentioned some books, I suggest you read Nicholas Slonimsky's memoir, "Perfect Pitch" if you would like to get a taste of the difficulties most innovative American and Latin composers have had in getting their work heard, and the circuitous ways they had to go about doing it.

Reiner is a perfect case of the great conductor stuck in a rut. I had subscription seats during some of his tenure in Chicago. For every piece by Bartok, one had to hear umpteen works by Richard Strauss. For every work of Shostakovich, there were endless Mozart and Beethoven Symphonies. When he died and was replaced by Martinon, who actually increased the orchestra's repertoire by major dimensions, he was run out of town by ultra-conservative critics and directors. That's been the pattern in practically every major American city over the past century. But it won't work any more. Audiences are no longer interested. Something has to be done to improve the overall quality of programming and it's the new breed of conductors such as Alsop who are aware of the problems and who will push hard for wider and more relevant programming. Without it, our orchestras will become museums if they haven't already.

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Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Jul 17, 2005 1:21 am

Ralph wrote:She hasn't had a major directorship and the experience will challenge her (if she gets the appointment). Perhaps she'll grow considerably, perhaps not. But her credentials to date merit this appointment.
I think I recall the last time we had a substantial discussion about the lady, someone, was it you, Ralph? Pizza?, noted that no major orchestra wanted to be the first to have a woman as their permanent conductor. If that's the source of their angst, I don't don't have any sympathy for them. It's music, forcrissake, not the presidency of the nation in time of war. If NASA can have women mission commanders, what's so damn more complex or special about conducting an orchestra? What have they got to lose? I can't imagine that their thinly veiled protests do them any credit whatever. I'm embarrassed for them. They should be ashamed of their collective wimpy selves.
Last edited by Corlyss_D on Sun Jul 17, 2005 1:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Jul 17, 2005 1:34 am

Peter Schenkman wrote:The orchestral world has indeed changed since the days of Weingartner, Toscanini, Furtwangler, Mengelberg, Stokowski, Walter, Kleiber (pere), Karajan, Klemperer, Krauss, Koussevitzky, and a host of others. All of those mentioned could conduct and I dare say that there is not a conductor in the world today who can be classed with any of those mentioned. All of those cited have left recordings of the Brahms Second Symphony; about as standard a part of the orchestra repertoire as you can find. In that company Ms. Alsop in the same work isn’t even a starter. Drop down a level to the likes of Abendroth, Szell, Leinsdorf, Ormandy, Kubelik, Sanderling, Kempe (not a bad lot either) who have recordings of the Brahms and the same comments apply. How much further down the food chain do we need go?
Well, if as you say there's not a conductor in the world today who can be classed with the greats, how fair is it to criticize Alsop for not being as good as them? Somebody's got to conduct these orchestras. Just because the boards can't find anyone of Toscanini's calibre doesn't mean that a good satisfying musical experience can't be rendered by others. That's the downside of these extensive recorded legacies: they fill people so with the longing for the distant impossible that they make people endlessly critical of the present possible.
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Post by Peter Schenkman » Sun Jul 17, 2005 3:09 am

And we continue to go-round in circles. Of course someone has to “conduct these orchestras” one of my points being; perhaps if those who conduct “these orchestras” had more to do with the back of stage as opposed to the front of house (AKA-PR) there might be more growth musically as to simply becoming yet another part of the on-going PR machine and walking in, punching the time card and saying; “what’s next, the Lion’s Club or the Elk’s? It’s these sorts of issues that finished Mitropoulos off in New York (and Kubelik in Chicago although there was a side issue with that cities reigning critic of the day). Mitropoulos could conduct with the very best of them, and his piano playing was certainly the equal of any of the many conductor-pianists, but that proved to be the least of his worries, it was the unrelenting front of house operations on a day in, day out basis that eventually brought him down. The man just wanted to make music, not an unreasonable wish for one of the major conductors of his era! Let me very quickly say that Ms. Alsop’s gender has nothing what-so-ever to do with my evaluation of her abilities and also say that I knew and liked her father Lamar, an excellent violinist on the New York free-lance scene and member of many distinguished chamber music groups.

In response to another question raised….” I suggest you read Nicholas Slonimsky's memoir, "Perfect Pitch" ….Answer being, I have (several times over) as well as the same authors “Lectionary of Music” and “Music Since 1900”. Mr. Slonimsky, born during the czarist reign in St. Petersburg (Russia at the time) in 1894 was a virtuoso pianist, composer, tire-less advocate of new music as well as being the author of “Perfect Pitch”, hardly your typical bed-time reading but the man tended to know his subject(s).


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Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Jul 17, 2005 11:07 am

Peter Schenkman wrote:Let me very quickly say that Ms. Alsop’s gender has nothing what-so-ever to do with my evaluation of her abilities
I didn't think it did in your case, Peter. I'm not so sure about whichever major orchestra Alsop would have been invited to join. They sound like they are immediately going to suffer a decrease in pay and status for being conducted by a woman. What was it Sandra Day O'Connor said in an interview about being named the first woman Justice on SCOTUS? Something about it being an honor to be first but nobody wanted to be the last as well.

I don't dispute that front office activities shouldn't interfere with the musical creds of the orchestra, but in this case, given the demands of the modern support structure for large artistic ensembles, the perfect is the enemy of the good.
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Post by CharmNewton » Sun Jul 17, 2005 12:09 pm

Persons might want to check out the Colorado Symphony web site.

http://www.coloradosymphony.org/

With a 21-week subscription season and world-class soloists, they sound like a major orchestra to me. Ms. Alsop must have been a part of this.

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Post by GK » Sun Jul 17, 2005 12:41 pm

CharmNewton wrote:Persons might want to check out the Colorado Symphony web site.

http://www.coloradosymphony.org/

With a 21-week subscription season and world-class soloists, they sound like a major orchestra to me. Ms. Alsop must have been a part of this.

John
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Post by Ralph » Sun Jul 17, 2005 1:00 pm

GK wrote:
CharmNewton wrote:Persons might want to check out the Colorado Symphony web site.

http://www.coloradosymphony.org/

With a 21-week subscription season and world-class soloists, they sound like a major orchestra to me. Ms. Alsop must have been a part of this.

John
I'm suspicious of any musical outfit whose associate conductor is named Adam Flatt.
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Post by Michael » Sun Jul 17, 2005 6:18 pm

I accept that the role of a conductor has evolved since the days the 'greats' mentioned above but I have to report that Ms Alsop does not go down well with the orchestras that she conducts in England. I have close friends in the BSO and LPO all of whom regard her as being mediocre at best. I have also heard some of her performances... rather poor IMHO. Mind you if she can but bums on seats and reduce deficits then hey ho...
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Post by Ralph » Sun Jul 17, 2005 7:24 pm

Michael wrote:I accept that the role of a conductor has evolved since the days the 'greats' mentioned above but I have to report that Ms Alsop does not go down well with the orchestras that she conducts in England. I have close friends in the BSO and LPO all of whom regard her as being mediocre at best. I have also heard some of her performances... rather poor IMHO. Mind you if she can but bums on seats and reduce deficits then hey ho...
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Some very good American conductors have got mixed or worse U.K. reviews including Andre Previn and, very recently, Gerard Schwarz.
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Post by Peter Schenkman » Sun Jul 17, 2005 7:34 pm

Ralph wrote:
Michael wrote:I accept that the role of a conductor has evolved since the days the 'greats' mentioned above but I have to report that Ms Alsop does not go down well with the orchestras that she conducts in England. I have close friends in the BSO and LPO all of whom regard her as being mediocre at best. I have also heard some of her performances... rather poor IMHO. Mind you if she can but bums on seats and reduce deficits then hey ho...
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Some very good American conductors have got mixed or worse U.K. reviews including Andre Previn and, very recently, Gerard Schwarz.
I’m rather tightly involved in the North American orchestral scene and the sad truth of the matter is the same reports occur on this side of the Atlantic, which in part is what prompted some of my earlier posts.

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Post by Barry » Sun Jul 17, 2005 7:54 pm

Corlyss_D wrote: I don't dispute that front office activities shouldn't interfere with the musical creds of the orchestra, but in this case, given the demands of the modern support structure for large artistic ensembles, the perfect is the enemy of the good.
We've had a very similar situation playing out in Philadelphia over the past few years.

Sawallisch was getting up in age and wanted to retire, but agreed to stay on until a replacement was found. The top two choices turned down the job, and there was no real third choice.

Management chose a conductor (Eschenbach) who hadn't conducted here in five years and who a number of the musicians (I don't know how many, but it was [and may still be]] more than a few) didn't like very much in terms of his musicianship/conducting style. The upside from management's perspective is that Eschenbach actually seems to enjoy schmoozing with big donors and taking part in community and fundraising activities during his time in Philly.

There was never a unanymous statement of opposition to Eschenbach by the musicians. It was and again, maybe still is, behind the scenes or private comments, and there is also a faction (again, I don't know how many) of the musicians who is more supportive of Eschenbach and his conducting.

In our case here, there is plenty of blame to go around between management and the musicians in my opinion. Management did a lousy job in the music director search by focusing almost 100 percent of its focus and energy in wooing Rattle. When he went to Berlin, they were left basically without other options. And both from what I've witnessed with younger conductors and what I've heard from a couple people who have spent a decent amount of time around the orchestra, the musicians are a very difficult bunch; probably unreasonably closeminded (at least that difficult faction) when it comes to conductors.

I happen to be a fan of Eschenbach's (he is not the most consistant conductor around, but he leads some really thrilling performances), and think that management made the best decision they could under the lousy circumstances they were largely responsible for being in. But in spite of that, and without meaning any disrespect to our orchestra musicians out here, I'm convinced that what makes the musicians happy with regard to their conductor is not relavant in determining how much I'll like a conductor or his performances. I'm not interested in how easy their job is. I want the music to move me, and that's all that matters.
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Post by Ralph » Sun Jul 17, 2005 7:57 pm

I've never been a big fan of Previn but Schwarz I like largely for his DELOS recordings of 20th Century American composers including Diamond, Piston and Schuman. And for many years his Mostly Mozart concerts were THE staple of my summer concertgoing.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Jul 17, 2005 8:59 pm

Barry Z wrote: I'm convinced that what makes the musicians happy with regard to their conductor is not relavant in determining how much I'll like a conductor or his performances. I'm not interested in how easy their job is. I want the music to move me, and that's all that matters.
Silly you!

To hear some of the orchestra people carry on, you'd think they were working unprotected 2 mi deep in the earth's crust mining asbestos for Simon Lagree. I recall with some amusement a 1967 cover of the newly launched Washingtonian with a chair and a music stand and a couple of instruments surrounded by digging and trenching equipment and hard hats with a cover quote "I'd rather did ditches than play another season for Howard Mitchell!"
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Post by Ralph » Sun Jul 17, 2005 9:03 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:
Barry Z wrote: I'm convinced that what makes the musicians happy with regard to their conductor is not relavant in determining how much I'll like a conductor or his performances. I'm not interested in how easy their job is. I want the music to move me, and that's all that matters.
Silly you!

To hear some of the orchestra people carry on, you'd think they were working unprotected 2 mi deep in the earth's crust mining asbestos for Simon Lagree. I recall with some amusement a 1967 cover of the newly launched Washingtonian with a chair and a music stand and a couple of instruments surrounded by digging and trenching equipment and hard hats with a cover quote "I'd rather did ditches than play another season for Howard Mitchell!"
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Post by Barry » Sun Jul 17, 2005 10:00 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:
Barry Z wrote: I'm convinced that what makes the musicians happy with regard to their conductor is not relavant in determining how much I'll like a conductor or his performances. I'm not interested in how easy their job is. I want the music to move me, and that's all that matters.
Silly you!
:shock:

Actually, I am sympathetic to musicians who work for conductors who are verbally abusive. But that's not the case here, and I don't think it will be in Baltimore either. Eschenbach couldn't try harder to win over the musicians from what I've seen and heard. It's strictly a question of some of the musicians not liking his technique and subjective interpretive style. On those complaints, I'm not sympathetic in the least, at least when I like the results :twisted: .
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Post by Ralph » Mon Jul 18, 2005 11:16 am

Musicians object to conductor appointment
7/18/2005, 12:51 p.m. ET
By FOSTER KLUG
The Associated Press

BALTIMORE (AP) — The expected appointment of one of the world's top female conductors to lead the Baltimore Symphony is premature, a group of orchestra members said Monday, asking that the search for music director continue.

Marin Alsop, an American who is principal conductor at the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in Britain, told The Associated Press last week she expected the Baltimore Symphony's board to approve her appointment Tuesday.

Alsop, 48, said a contract was being negotiated and she saw no "huge stumbling blocks" to an announcement that would make her the first woman to head a top American orchestra.

But orchestra members on the search committee issued a strongly worded statement, saying a "vast majority" of musicians objects to ending the search to replace Yuri Temirkanov, who's stepping down at the end of the 2005-2006 season.

"Ending the search process now, before we are sure the best candidate has been found, would be a disservice to the patrons of the BSO and all music lovers in Maryland," the statement said.

The seven musicians on the 21-member search committee "were unanimous that the search process should continue and that any decision on music director was premature," said English horn player Jane Marvine, chairwoman of the committee that represents the orchestra in contract talks with management.

The musicians want the search extended until Thanksgiving, "so we can consider several additional conductors appearing with the orchestra this fall," said Marvine. She said that "90 percent of the orchestra feels that the search should continue."

Marvine wouldn't comment specifically about Alsop. She also declined to name the "additional conductors."

"This is about the process," she said. "The musicians are trying to have an open process where their artistic views are given consideration."

Laura Johnson, a BSO spokeswoman, who previously said the majority of board members on the search committee were "very favorable to Ms. Alsop," declined Monday to speak about specifics until after the larger board voted.

She said that while there have been "spirited conversations ... this has been an extremely inclusive and collaborative process."

"We've debated responsibly, and we're at a point where we're at a difference of opinions," Johnson said.

But Marvine said the search committee didn't vote on whether to hire Alsop, and therefore didn't consider the musicians' opposition to ending the search.

The musicians said in their statement that news of contract negotiations with Alsop "reinforces our view that a decision has been made without the full participation and agreement of the BSO musicians. If the Board of Directors makes a decision opposed by the vast majority of the orchestra, all confidence in the current leadership of the orchestra would be lost."

Messages left on Alsop's cell phone weren't immediately returned.

•__

On the Net:

http://www.marinalsop.com

http://www.baltimoresymphony.org/
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Post by pizza » Mon Jul 18, 2005 11:53 am

The tail wagging the dog.

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Post by Ralph » Mon Jul 18, 2005 11:59 am

At the least there's a breakdown in communications if Ms. Alsop says she's negotiating a contract and the musicians on the search committee claim no offer has been made to their knowledge.

Not a terrific way to start a relationship.
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Post by Peter Schenkman » Mon Jul 18, 2005 1:59 pm

Ralph wrote:At the least there's a breakdown in communications if Ms. Alsop says she's negotiating a contract and the musicians on the search committee claim no offer has been made to their knowledge.

Not a terrific way to start a relationship.
I think that I've been saying this for some time!

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Post by pizza » Mon Jul 18, 2005 4:30 pm

Ms. Alsop has a right to rely on the orchestra's designated negotiators. She obviously doesn't have to poll each member in order to reach an agreement.

If there's a breakdown in communications, it seems to be within the orchestra itself. But that's not Alsop's fault, is it? There comes a time in every process where the talk has to end and the action has to begin. It appears that point has been reached here, like it or not.
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Post by Ralph » Mon Jul 18, 2005 4:30 pm

Peter Schenkman wrote:
Ralph wrote:At the least there's a breakdown in communications if Ms. Alsop says she's negotiating a contract and the musicians on the search committee claim no offer has been made to their knowledge.

Not a terrific way to start a relationship.
I think that I've been saying this for some time!

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Yep, I'm agreeing with your experienced viewpoint.
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Post by Ralph » Mon Jul 18, 2005 4:31 pm

pizza wrote:Ms. Alsop has a right to rely on the orchestra's designated negotiators. She obviously doesn't have to poll each member in order to reach an agreement.

If there's a breakdown in communications, it seems to be within the orchestra itself. But that's not Alsop's fault, is it? There comes a time in every process where the talk has to end and the action has to begin. It appears that point has been reached here.
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Pizza,

Should we approach Ms. Alsop and offer our advice?
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Post by Ralph » Tue Jul 19, 2005 4:28 am

From The New York Times:

July 19, 2005
Baltimore Musicians Dissent on Conductor
By DANIEL J. WAKIN

Board members and management had made their decision: the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra would appoint Marin Alsop as its new music director, the first woman to lead an American orchestra of its size.

Then a powerful group of musicians revolted.

Despite promises that their voice would be heard, the musicians charged, their objections to her appointment had been ignored. They denounced the search process on Sunday and said that if the orchestra's full board were to vote at its meeting today to offer her a contract, "all confidence" in the orchestra's leadership would be lost.

"The process has been trampled on and not respected the legitimate artistic views of the musicians," Jane Marvine, the orchestra's English horn player and chairwoman of the players' committee, said yesterday. The committee is the musicians' elected representative body.

But James Glicker, the orchestra's president, said the meeting would go forward, and so would the recommendation of a search committee to hire Ms. Alsop. He disputed the charge that the musicians had been ignored, saying they had sat in on countless hours of search committee meetings and they could make their views known at Tuesday's meeting.

"To be able to speak your piece and to be voted against isn't to be ignored," he said. "Respecting someone's opinion doesn't mean giving them veto power."

The players' dissatisfaction was reported by The Baltimore Sun on Saturday and by The Washington Post yesterday.

The turmoil at the Baltimore Symphony is part of a long history of orchestra players' seeking a greater say in the choice of the man or woman who stands before them day after day, leading rehearsals, conducting concerts and strongly affecting their musical and even personal lives.

A watershed moment occurred in the early 1970's, when the Cleveland Orchestra appointed Lorin Maazel music director despite an informal vote by the musicians overwhelmingly rejecting him. Bitterness lingered for years, although whether it affected the quality of performances as perceived by the audience was debatable.

As unions have grown stronger, the musicians have won more and more say - or at least lip service to the principle.

The Baltimore players are being extremely tight-lipped about their objections, saying they do not want to speak critically of anyone. It is also true that if Ms. Alsop, who is now the principal conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in England, gets the job, they will have to live with her and with any negative comments.

Ms. Alsop declined to answer questions but released a statement saying, "We've had a wonderful time performing these past few years, and I look forward to making music with the exceptional musicians of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra."

She said she hoped to increase recording and touring with the orchestra. "I look forward to becoming a part of the Baltimore community," she said.

Mr. Glicker said Ms. Alsop was the right choice. "She's a great communicator, a great leader, a great programmer, and she's got star quality," he added.

But several players said a current of feeling runs among the musicians that Ms. Alsop's musical profile is not strong enough. "There are some people who feel that way, and some who don't," said Edward Palanker, the bass clarinetist. Mr. Palanker stressed that he was keeping an open mind. "I'm looking for someone who we feel will raise the musical standard of the orchestra. Perhaps she's the one who can. I don't really know."

Mr. Palanker said he believed that Ms. Alsop's guest appearances had not increased ticket sales. "I don't think she's the attraction that management thinks she is," he said.

On Sunday the Baltimore players' committee, a representative body elected by the orchestra, issued a statement calling for the decision to be delayed until Thanksgiving, so the orchestra could experience other candidates. Most, except for Hans Graf, are lesser known, like Juanjo Mena and Bjarte Engeset.

The committee said that the players' artistic advisory committee - a seven-member team that served on the search committee along with board and staff members - had surveyed the entire orchestra and that 90 percent had said it was too early to end the search.

In a telephone interview Monday, Robert Barney, the principal bassist and the leader of the advisory committee, said that the seven musicians were at odds with the nonmusicians on the 21-member committee over a "particular candidate" - whom he would not name - from the beginning of the search, which began in December.

At the last search committee meeting, on Wednesday, he said, "It was clear that we would not reach consensus, which was the goal from the beginning, and that a recommendation was going to be taken to the board."

Mr. Barney, who was a co-chairman of the search committee, and Ms. Marvine declined to say whether the players objected specifically to Ms. Alsop. When pressed, Ms. Marvine acknowledged, "If they loved Marin Alsop and the board and management loved Marin Alsop, I don't think we'd be asking them to extend the process."

The advisory committee's decision holds weight. It, too, was elected by the orchestra and includes some of its most prominent members.

Ms. Alsop has won praise as a dynamic conductor with clear ideas about the future of orchestras and as an articulate and witty speaker on music. She has long been considered a candidate for a major appointment, and rumors abounded that she was headed for Baltimore. She has also led the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and been a guest conductor of major orchestras. She is conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood next month and the New York Philharmonic in October.
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Post by Ralph » Tue Jul 19, 2005 4:31 am

"Mr. Palanker said he believed that Ms. Alsop's guest appearances had not increased ticket sales. "I don't think she's the attraction that management thinks she is," he said.

Is this what's it's about? Possible music directors are "attractions?"
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Post by Ralph » Tue Jul 19, 2005 4:34 am

washingtonpost.com
Where Is the Ms. in Maestro?
Major Orchestras Still Shy Away From Female Conductors

By Tim Page
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 19, 2005; C01

The board of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra will meet this morning to decide whether to appoint Marin Alsop as the ensemble's 12th music director. Whatever decision is made, it is likely to leave bruised feelings within the orchestra and throughout the tightly knit world of classical music.

If Alsop is named, it will be against the express wishes of as many as 90 percent of the musicians in the BSO, who have asked for a continuation of the search to audition several other conductors.

If Alsop is rejected, it will be a huge setback for the management of the orchestra, which has backed her for the position and has suggested since late last week that board certification of her appointment was just a formality.

Complicating the matter is the fact that Alsop, if selected, would be the first woman to run a major American or European orchestra. Her appointment would therefore be of considerable historical importance and the word that she is the front-running -- and only current -- candidate has already been picked up by news organizations throughout the world.

There have been female conductors -- Antonia Brico led a concert with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra as early as 1930 and Nadia Boulanger's mid-century appearances with the New York Philharmonic were legendary. In recent years, artists such as Anne Manson and JoAnn Falletta (the latter will lead the National Symphony Orchestra at Wolf Trap on July 28 ) have won appreciative followings as guest conductors -- and both have served as music directors of some well-regarded medium-size orchestras. But no female conductor has ever been selected to shape the overall direction of a group as significant as the Baltimore Symphony.

In an era when women commonly run everything from universities to Fortune 500 companies to entire countries, why has it taken so long for a single leading orchestra to take the step?

The fact is, classical music has been extraordinarily hidebound when it comes to gender issues. The Berlin Philharmonic admitted its first female player in 1980; the Vienna Philharmonic steadfastly refused to let women enjoy full membership status until, grudgingly, two harpists were hired in the late 1990s. (In a 1996 interview with West German State Radio, Helmut Zaertner, a violist with the Vienna Philharmonic, explained that because harpists were stationed so far at the edge of the orchestra, "it doesn't disturb our emotional unity, the unity I would strongly feel, for example, when the orchestra starts really cooking with a Mahler symphony.")

American orchestras have been far ahead of many of their European counterparts on this front, with women making up a third or more of the membership of several leading ensembles and regularly dominating the string section. (Brass remains mostly a male preserve, although the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra has long featured Susan Slaughter on principal trumpet.) But things have been just as hard for female conductors in the United States as they are across the Atlantic.

Indeed, the late critic Harold C. Schonberg began his generally illuminating and entertaining history "The Great Conductors" (1967) with a grandiloquent definition of a "maestro" that would seem to rule out half of humanity:

"He is of commanding presence, infinite dignity, fabulous memory, vast experience, high temperament, and serene wisdom. He has been tempered in the crucible but he is still molten and he glows with a fierce inner light. He is many things: musician, administrator, executive, minister, psychologist, technician, philosopher and dispenser of wrath. . . . Above all, he is a leader of men. His subjects look to him for guidance. He is at once a father image, the great provider, the force of inspiration, the Teacher who knows all."

There were no profiles or photographs of women in Schonberg's book. They weren't on the radar.

Of course, 40 years ago the same might have been said of virtually all corporate leaders, who were simply expected to be men. The world has changed enormously since then -- but classical music has changed less than most fields.

In part that is because it has come to seem a retrospective art form, with virtually all of its "greatest hits" written by male composers who are long dead. The last truly popular piece to enter the symphonic repertory was Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Spring," composed in 1944. For most of its history, classical music has been a man's world.

"The idea of a woman managing the performance of music remains anathema even in societies where women have achieved the highest office," the British critic Norman Lebrecht observed in his book "The Maestro Myth" (1991). "Committee wives in Middle America are said to abhor the notion of a female incumbent, while male commuters want the symphonies they hear while driving to work to be conducted by one of their own. Whether they act tough or soft, women conductors have been given a hard time by male-dominated orchestras."

But things have begun to improve somewhat in the past couple of decades. Attempts to reach Alsop at her New York apartment and on her cell phone have been unsuccessful; her management said that she would have no comment until after today's board meeting. But in the past, she has regularly startled interviewers with her opinion that, if anything, the fact that she is a woman had helped her career.

"In America, at least, I've found very little resistance to the idea of a woman conductor," she said in 1990. "It's still unusual enough that the orchestra might even get some publicity for engaging me." She has made other similar statements over the years.

Falletta concurs. "I've never felt any discrimination in the United States," she said yesterday. "Twenty years ago, at the beginning of my career, I'd find a certain coolness in other countries -- especially in Germany -- but even that has gotten a lot better. If anything, I'd say that there is more prejudice against American conductors in general, whether they are male or female. We're still sometimes treated as second-raters -- and that goes on here as well as in Europe, I'm sorry to say."

It is probable that a new generation of female conductors will arrive -- certainly, there are plentiful candidates now studying in conservatories. Young musicians growing up today no longer face the prejudices that were once accepted as a matter of course, and much of this is due to the example of artists such as Marin Alsop.

The BSO musicians' request that the search for a conductor continue did not mention Alsop's name, nor did it raise specific concerns about her qualifications for the job. But a letter dated April 21 from Anthony S. Brandon, a board member who has been outspoken in his opposition to Alsop's appointment, to Philip English, the chairman of the BSO board, is specific. It was drafted with the help of other board members, with input from a number of musicians, and copies have circulated freely in circles close to the BSO. English has previously refused to comment on the appointment and he did not return calls yesterday afternoon.

"The overriding justification for eliminating Alsop is that 90 percent of the BSO musicians oppose her appointment," the letter states. "In her appearances with the orchestra, the players say, Alsop has not produced inspired and nuanced performances of standard classical repertory. They cite 'dull,' even 'substandard,' performances of Brahms's Symphony No. 3, Mendelssohn's music for 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 2.

"They say that she either does not hear problems or -- because her technical limitations prevent her from fixing them -- that she ignores them. Her musical sense is inhibited by her own lack of depth as a musician and she becomes frustrated when what she hears in her head does not come out from the players. Upon finding something wanting in rehearsal, she responds with vagaries such as 'I'm not feeling it' (Mendelssohn's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream') or exhorts them with abstractions such as 'make magic' (Brahms's Symphony No. 3).

"When an orchestra believes it is being pushed by unmusical ideas, tempos and phrasing and being told that the orchestra itself lacks imagination, musicians feel they are dealing with a conductor who lacks ideas, conviction and technical skill."

The current music director, Yuri Temirkanov, steps down at the end of the 2005-06 season. So, whether it is Alsop or someone else, the BSO must find a conductor soon.
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Post by pizza » Tue Jul 19, 2005 5:02 am

Never in the history of orchestral appointments have the musicians of a major American orchestra had the final say as to who will lead them. If the Baltimore Board of Directors allows that to happen they will set a precedent for chaos.

No one is indispensable. There are many first rate, top notch musicians chafing at the bit for an opportunity to play in an orchestra such as the Baltimore. If the current roster has an ounce of sense, they will welcome Alsop with open arms and make the best possible music they can.

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Post by Ralph » Tue Jul 19, 2005 6:33 am

pizza wrote:Never in the history of orchestral appointments have the musicians of a major American orchestra had the final say as to who will lead them. If the Baltimore Board of Directors allows that to happen they will set a precedent for chaos.

No one is indispensable. There are many first rate, top notch musicians chafing at the bit for an opportunity to play in an orchestra such as the Baltimore. If the current roster has an ounce of sense, they will welcome Alsop with open arms and make the best possible music they can.
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AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Post by karlhenning » Tue Jul 19, 2005 6:54 am

pizza wrote:Never in the history of orchestral appointments have the musicians of a major American orchestra had the final say as to who will lead them.
Your protest is a little round, methinks.
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Post by Haydnseek » Tue Jul 19, 2005 7:21 am

Search brings discord to BSO

Board may name director today over artists' protests

By Tim Smith
Sun Music Critic

July 19, 2005

http://www.baltimoresun.com/features/li ... life-today

The last time the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra sought a new music director, the process took about a year and ended with a choice - eminent Russian conductor Yuri Temirkanov - that had widespread approval from the musicians, the administration and the board of directors.

This morning, the BSO board meets to decide whether to appoint Marin Alsop as Temirkanov's successor, knowing that an overwhelming majority of the musicians - about 90 percent, according to a statement released by the players committee Sunday - want the search process to continue for a few more months.

There doesn't appear to be any prospect for pleasing all sides of the orchestra family.

If the board declines to appoint Alsop, it would be an unusual blow to management. The highly praised American conductor would become the first woman to hold the top artistic post of one of the 24 largest orchestras in this country. (The American Symphony Orchestra League defines "large" as having an annual operating budget of $14.75 million or more; with a $30 million budget, the BSO is roughly in the middle of that group.)

Alsop appears to have been the leading candidate of top staffers all along, viewed as a boon to the BSO's overall prospects for artistic and financial growth.

The players have repeatedly declined to comment on Alsop, focusing their displeasure on the process that resulted in her pending appointment after a seven-month search (two years seems to be more common in the industry). They have asked for more time to consider other candidates to succeed Temirkanov, who steps down from the post in June.

"If the Board of Directors makes a decision opposed by the vast majority of the orchestra," the musicians declared in Sunday's statement, "all confidence in the current leadership of the orchestra would be lost."

Although relations between any orchestra's players and management can become divisive over various issues, differences almost never explode in the open, as they have in Baltimore, except during particularly fractious negotiations over musicians' contracts.

"This isn't a usual situation at all," Laura Brownell, director of the symphonic services division at the American Federation of Musicians in New York, said yesterday. "It's a very unfortunate breakdown. The musicians know there are great costs of going public with this; they have obviously weighed those costs."

The players' frustration has focused on the relative speed of the search and the fact that the move toward appointing Alsop was well under way before the full board of directors had "a reasonable opportunity to investigate and consider the issues being raised by the musicians," according to a statement Friday from the players committee.

Over the weekend, BSO President James Glicker said that officers of the board had asked for a decision to be made by July. Asked to comment on that point, Jane Marvine, head of the players committee, declined.

Typically, an orchestra's search committee charged with finding a music director will include musicians, along with staffers and board members.

"The provisions and processes vary from orchestra to orchestra," Brownell said. "There is no standard model. In an ideal world, you would be looking for consensus. If a choice is imposed, it would make musicians' working lives very difficult."

In the BSO case, the search committee disbanded without consensus this month, but management proceeded with the choice of Alsop and began negotiating the contract that will be put to a vote today.

In the past few years, "inclusiveness" has been a much-heard word inside the BSO, which has re-evaluated virtually all of its operations in the wake of persistent deficits and challenges of building up an audience base in Baltimore.

Representation of musicians in various advisory committees has been increased, and that may have led to greater expectations among the players of having their advice taken.

"There is no place more important or appropriate for musicians to be involved in than a music director search," Brownell said. "And there is a perceived wisdom that the more involved workers are in decision-making, the healthier the organization will be."

"There is a difference between inclusiveness, which we've very much tried to do, and control," Karen Swanson, BSO vice president and general manager, said over the weekend.

The public stance of the players cannot help but raise the impression that they are not enthusiastic about working with Alsop as music director.

Her several guest-conducting appearances since making her BSO debut in 2002 have achieved mixed results, with strong showings in contemporary repertoire and interpretations of standard works that lacked the kind of expressive heat and interpretive freedom that have come to characterize the Temirkanov tenure.

The hard-to-define chemistry between musicians and conductor that produces and sustains a long-term relationship is difficult to predict, let alone guarantee. Whether Alsop and the BSO could achieve such a connection is a question that the orchestra's board may consider this morning.

Alsop's career, which includes more than 30 recordings, high-profile guest-conducting appearances, mounds of favorable reviews and a nationwide broadcast of Leonard Bernstein's Candide with the New York Philharmonic that was just nominated for an Emmy Award, has obvious appeal to BSO management.

Glicker said last week that any objections to Alsop in the orchestra could be overcome by her "compelling" personality and "great people skills. I'm hoping that's going to win the day."

"I certainly don't know how to pick a conductor," said longtime BSO patron Robin Breitenecker, "so I believe the musicians should have a tremendous input into the process. If they are opposed to this choice, I think their concerns should carry great weight."

Copyright © 2005, The Baltimore Sun
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Post by pizza » Tue Jul 19, 2005 7:32 am

karlhenning wrote:
pizza wrote:Never in the history of orchestral appointments have the musicians of a major American orchestra had the final say as to who will lead them.
Your protest is a little round, methinks.
And I thought it was elliptical. :roll:

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Post by Haydnseek » Tue Jul 19, 2005 7:58 am

Although I’ve never heard her conduct, either in person or on a recording, I think Alsop is potentially a good choice for Baltimore. The orchestra is in very bad shape financially and they need someone with a big personality who will become a leader and a presence in the community, which Alsop has committed herself to be. Zinman was such a figure and Temirkanov is not. Baltimore still has a blue collar character and local celebrities tend to be of the down-to-earth American type which, from what I read, Alsop is too. Temirkanov’s aloofness and supercilious manner (perhaps an unfair image) has not played so well apparently with audiences, however much the musicians admire him. Hiring Alsop may also be a move to recapture ground lost during Temirkanov’s tenure in the area of contemporary and American music. The BSO under Zinman had carved out an important niche for itself. The abandoning of that position was the cause, reportedly, of Zinman resigning his Conductor Laureate post.

I think the musicians object to her on musical grounds – they just don’t think she is good enough. But She is, at the least, competent and experienced. She is the latest thing, a novelty, and she makes records. If she isn’t the best conductor, most concertgoers won’t know – they would give a trained monkey waving a stick a standing ovation. The important thing for the Baltimore Symphony right now is to stay in business.
"The law isn't justice. It's a very imperfect mechanism. If you press exactly the right buttons and are also lucky, justice may show up in the answer. A mechanism is all the law was ever intended to be." - Raymond Chandler

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Post by pizza » Tue Jul 19, 2005 8:54 am

I had no idea Zinman resigned his Conductor Laureate post. That's really a shame. Anything he could contribute to the orchestra would certainly help. I think his tenure was the high water mark of the orchestra and was very sorry to see him leave.

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Post by Peter Schenkman » Tue Jul 19, 2005 8:58 am

If indeed the members of the orchestra are 90% against the appointment of Ms. Alsop at this time and favor a longer search period as has been widely reported by the media it’s sheer lunacy, once they’ve been involved in the process to precipitously jump ahead, nine-tenths of your orchestra is an overwhelming majority. As Ralph wisely pointed out…” Not a terrific way to start a relationship”….and I couldn’t agree more.

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Post by pizza » Tue Jul 19, 2005 10:00 am

No orchestra should be given a de facto veto over who is hired to direct it. That would be sheer lunacy and lead to chaos. A voice, yes. A veto, no. Orchestra musicians are supposed to be professionals and play their best regardless of who is waving the stick. Any player who can't rise above his personal peeves and behave as a pro has no business in such an organization.

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Post by karlhenning » Tue Jul 19, 2005 10:07 am

pizza wrote:Any player who can't rise above his personal peeves and behave as a pro has no business in such an organization.
Harsh words for the NY Phil, but I expect you are right :-)
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Post by Michael » Tue Jul 19, 2005 11:46 am

pizza wrote:No orchestra should be given a de facto veto over who is hired to direct it. That would be sheer lunacy and lead to chaos. A voice, yes. A veto, no. Orchestra musicians are supposed to be professionals and play their best regardless of who is waving the stick.
An extremely naive statement from someone who hasn't any experience playing in a major orchestra. Could be taken as being offensive but I shall simply correct this bald and inaccurate statement and hope that my point is taken on board.
There are MANY conductors that we work with that simply get in the way. Menuhin was a prime example of a man I respected as a musician but as a conductor it was well nigh impossible to give of one's best because he was quite often destructive. There are those whom one can ignore, head down follow the leader etc (hardly a satisfactory way of playing a Mahler symphony for example) but Menuhin was VERY difficult.
As far as addressing sheer lunacy and chaos (what an exaggeration :roll: ) one only has to look at the Vienna Phil who don't even have a resident chief conductor or the self-governing London orchestra's (LSO, LPO, RPO, Philharmonia) whose professionalism and discipline is legendary. These orchestras only engage the conductors that they want to work with, for whatever reason that may be.
Last edited by Michael on Tue Jul 19, 2005 11:53 am, edited 3 times in total.
Michael from The Colne Valley, Yorkshire.

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Post by Michael » Tue Jul 19, 2005 11:48 am

pizza wrote:Any player who can't rise above his personal peeves and behave as a pro has no business in such an organization.
Like Mr Henning, I fully concur with this statement at least.
Michael from The Colne Valley, Yorkshire.

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