Alsop to Baltimore?

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Post by GK » Tue Jul 19, 2005 12:24 pm

My son just moved from Baltimore to Houston. I don't think that he'd be to happy if Hans Graf moves from Houston to Baltimore.

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Post by Ralph » Tue Jul 19, 2005 1:20 pm

GK wrote:My son just moved from Baltimore to Houston. I don't think that he'd be to happy if Hans Graf moves from Houston to Baltimore.
*****

Does Graf want to move?
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Post by Ralph » Tue Jul 19, 2005 1:25 pm

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http://www.baltimoresun.com/features/li ... life-today
Search brings discord to BSO
Board may name director today over artists' protests


By Tim Smith
Sun Music Critic

July 19, 2005

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."
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Post by Ralph » Tue Jul 19, 2005 1:30 pm

Baltimore Symphony appoints Alsop
7/19/2005, 3:12 p.m. ET
By FOSTER KLUG
The Associated Press

BALTIMORE (AP) — Marin Alsop was appointed music director of the Baltimore Symphony on Tuesday, overcoming vigorous dissent by its musicians and becoming the first woman to head a major American orchestra.

An "overwhelming" majority of the orchestra's board voted for the appointment, said chairman Philip English.

"We appreciate the participation of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and those musicians on the search committee," English said. "We held their opinions in high regard and know they will concur and rally around this decision."

English said Alsop had accepted the position and was expected to sign a contract soon. He did not release details of the contract.

The musicians, who had been in rehearsal while the board was voting, said they were disappointed by what they called the "premature conclusion of the search process."

"However, this will not dampen our enthusiasm and zest for music-making," said Jane Marvine, an English horn player and chairwoman of a committee that represents the orchestra in contractual talks with management.

"We'll work together with Marin Alsop and every conductor to present the inspiring performance our audience has come to expect."

Other musicians met the news with silence, some said. The only ones inclined to speak about the appointment were the few who supported Alsop.

"I think Marin is a top-notch conductor and we're lucky to have her," said Mary Bisson, who plays third horn. "I really don't understand the negative reaction. I'm delighted she's coming."

Another supporter, Ellen Orner, a first violinist, described herself as "one of the very few musicians who are happy."

Orner said she thinks Alsop will bring stability. "And I think management has a workable plan that includes Marin."

Julia Kirchhausen, a spokeswoman for the American Symphony Orchestra League, said that while women conductors have headed orchestras before, Alsop's appointment marks the first time a woman has headed one of the size or status of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

Alsop, a 48-year-old American who is principal conductor at the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in Britain, will succeed Yuri Temirkanov, who is stepping down at the end of next season.

In recent years, Alsop has been lauded while working as a guest conductor with symphonies around the world.

When she was appointed in Bournemouth, she became the first woman to direct a major British orchestra. Before that, she was music director for the Colorado Symphony Orchestra for 12 years.

The daughter of professional classical musicians, Alsop studied violin at the Juilliard School of Music. She trained as a conductor under Leonard Bernstein.

Deborah Borda, president of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, has told The New York Times that the appointment "would be a great leap forward and a significant moment in American musical history."

•__

On the Net:

http://www.marinalsop.com

http://www.baltimoresymphony.org/
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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue Jul 19, 2005 1:41 pm

I give her 3 years.
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Post by pizza » Tue Jul 19, 2005 2:03 pm

Michael wrote:
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.
There is no contradiction between my position and the experiences of the LSO, LPO, RPO, VPO and Philharmonia. Professionalism and discipline is what it's all about. I'm sure they play their very best no matter who is conducting. Since none of the orchestras you mentioned have a resident chief conductor, hiring one isn't an issue with which they have to contend. It's easy to engage whomever you agree upon on a temporary basis. But that's not how it's done in American orchestras.

I'm sure you and your colleagues gave Menuhin and other unpopular conductors your best efforts no matter the difficulty.

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Post by Ralph » Tue Jul 19, 2005 3:03 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:I give her 3 years.
*****

For what? To elevate the Baltimore orchestra? To fail? To be appointed to a more prestigious directorship?
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Post by Michael » Tue Jul 19, 2005 6:59 pm

pizza wrote:There is no contradiction between my position and the experiences of the LSO, LPO, RPO, VPO and Philharmonia. Professionalism and discipline is what it's all about. I'm sure they play their very best no matter who is conducting. Since none of the orchestras you mentioned have a resident chief conductor, hiring one isn't an issue with which they have to contend. It's easy to engage whomever you agree upon on a temporary basis. But that's not how it's done in American orchestras.

I'm sure you and your colleagues gave Menuhin and other unpopular conductors your best efforts no matter the difficulty.
With the exception of the VPO the Orchestras that I mention do indeed have a resident conductor. LSO / Colin Davies, LPO/ Kurt Masur, Philharmonia/ Dohnanyi, RPO/just signed up Slatkin.... granted it-s a different ball game to what happens in the US but these guys do have a certain amount of influence... they work with the players and board members (mostly players) and it seems to function ok whilst the orchestral rank and file remain very much in control.... it was ever thus in England..mind you... I must admit that I got sick of it and carved out a living elsewhere..the whys and wherefores would merit a Dickensian sized post which I wouldn-t dream of inflicting on anybody :wink:
Michael from The Colne Valley, Yorkshire.

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Post by MahlerSnob » Tue Jul 19, 2005 9:09 pm

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 agree entirely with this statement. And has conductors go, I think the BSO could have done a lot better than Alsop. In principle, it is excellent that a woman is now MD for a major orchestra. This is a step in the right direction and something that should have happened years ago. But why did it have to be Alsop? Why not JoAnn Falleta or any of the other very good female conductors that are working in the US right now. I know several players who have worked with Alsop, at the Colorado Symphony and elsewhere, and I have heard virtually nothing but negative feedback about her. These comments range from issues such as her attitude towards the orchestra to her work ethic in rehearsal. I suspect that the reason the BSO players were so vehemently opposed to her appointment was because of these impressions that they probably got of her when she guest conducted. I will be very surprised if she stays longer than the term of her initial contract.
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Post by Ralph » Tue Jul 19, 2005 9:30 pm

MahlerSnob wrote:
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 agree entirely with this statement. And has conductors go, I think the BSO could have done a lot better than Alsop. In principle, it is excellent that a woman is now MD for a major orchestra. This is a step in the right direction and something that should have happened years ago. But why did it have to be Alsop? Why not JoAnn Falleta or any of the other very good female conductors that are working in the US right now. I know several players who have worked with Alsop, at the Colorado Symphony and elsewhere, and I have heard virtually nothing but negative feedback about her. These comments range from issues such as her attitude towards the orchestra to her work ethic in rehearsal. I suspect that the reason the BSO players were so vehemently opposed to her appointment was because of these impressions that they probably got of her when she guest conducted. I will be very surprised if she stays longer than the term of her initial contract.
*****

We'll see. Alsop will be under a microscope and she knows it. I wouldn't underestimate her capacity for growth.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Wed Jul 20, 2005 12:30 am

Ralph wrote:
Corlyss_D wrote:I give her 3 years.
*****

For what? To elevate the Baltimore orchestra? To fail? To be appointed to a more prestigious directorship?
To be rendered ineffective by the orchestra, either thru constant complaining, labor disputes, or other behind the scenes destruction.
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Post by Ralph » Wed Jul 20, 2005 4:43 am

Corlyss_D wrote:
Ralph wrote:
Corlyss_D wrote:I give her 3 years.
*****

For what? To elevate the Baltimore orchestra? To fail? To be appointed to a more prestigious directorship?
To be rendered ineffective by the orchestra, either thru constant complaining, labor disputes, or other behind the scenes destruction.
*****

Quite the pessimist are you. I think the Baltimore musicians are more professional than that and as to labor disputes, music directors tend to stand aside and not be involved at all.
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Post by Ralph » Wed Jul 20, 2005 4:52 am

From The New York Times:

July 20, 2005
Baltimore Question: Can't They Get Along?
By ANTHONY TOMMASINI

When the news leaked out that Marin Alsop was to be appointed the next music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the national media leapt on the story as a barrier-breaking milestone. Ms. Alsop would be the first woman to direct a major American orchestra. She had already made history in 2002 as the first woman to become principal conductor of a major British orchestra, the Bournemouth Symphony.

Though the breakthrough is overdue, I supported the decision for other reasons. Instead of turning to an elderly European eminence, as major American orchestras so often have, the Baltimore Symphony was putting its faith in a 48-year-old American dynamo, a formidable musician and a powerful communicator, a conductor with a vision of what an American orchestra could be in the 21st century. Ms. Alsop has also proved to be a programmer with a knack for mixing old and new, a champion of contemporary music and living composers, and someone who can talk from first-hand experience about the new-music scenes and the standout composers in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and London.

Then came the protests from the orchestra's players, and the voices were too numerous and too strident to be dismissed as typical grumbling of jaded union musicians. What to make of it? Ms. Alsop's debut with the Baltimore Symphony in May 2002 was well received by critics and audiences. Though I have not heard her conduct the orchestra, her performances with it since her debut have seemingly been successful.

There is an inexplicable element of chemistry between a conductor and the members of an orchestra. There is also, almost always, some friction, which at best can be creative and at worst destabilizing.

The arrogance of the perfectionist conductor Riccardo Muti eventually drove the players of the orchestra of La Scala Opera in Milan to rebel. Mr. Muti resigned in a huff. But whatever the friction, the orchestra played surpassingly well during Mr. Muti's years as music director.

Many members of the New York Philharmonic found Kurt Masur to be an abusive taskmaster. Yet even his biggest critics among the players would surely concede that he took the Philharmonic to a new level of excellence and inspired them to profound performances.

On the other hand, Michael Tilson Thomas seems to have an utterly collegial relationship with the musicians of the San Francisco Symphony. You could argue that a little of Mr. Masur's grim-faced discipline is called for. (San Francisco Symphony performances can be a bit scrappy.) But the dynamic between Mr. Thomas and his players is working. The music-making is vibrant and fresh. He is enticing audiences to take chances on adventurous programs. Things are going great. Who cares about a few bloopers now and then?

It's possible that the complaints coming from Baltimore musicians about Ms. Alsop's appointment are mostly expressions of disgruntlement over the selection process. No matter how much input orchestra players are given in choosing a music director, they never feel they have enough. Surely, they cannot be serious when they argue that Ms. Alsop's expertise, stature within the field and drawing power are in any way lacking. Would they prefer some of the other potential candidates whose names have been released?

One is the Austrian Hans Graf, a solid conductor now at the Houston Symphony. Despite being only 56, Mr. Graf is an old-world figure best known for his cool and elegant performances of Mozart and Bruckner. He hardly seems the kind of savior most American orchestras are looking for. Then there are Juanjo Mena and Bjarte Engeset. While humbly admitting that my knowledge of the field is not without limits, I respectfully ask, who are they?

Ms. Alsop is such an exciting conductor of American and contemporary music that she has unfortunately been pegged as a specialist. Actually, she has always conducted a wide range of repertory.

You need only listen to her recent recording of Brahms's Symphony No. 1 on the Naxos label, the first in a promised survey of the Brahms symphonies with the London Symphony Orchestra. This is a bracing, incisive and unsentimental account of a staple. As someone steeped in contemporary music, Ms. Alsop conducts the Brahms with a keen awareness of its path-breaking elements.

In the end, the orchestra players are the only experts on what it's like to work with a conductor. Still, they are not the experts on what a performance is like for the audience. That's why boards and managers sometimes choose to stick with conductors whom the players grumble about. Clearly, the board of the Baltimore Symphony senses that Ms. Alsop could be an energizing force for the orchestra as well as a charismatic cultural leader in the city.

I'm often asked why there are so few women among prominent conductors. It seems too glib to answer that the problem is rampant sexism within the orchestral world. But what other explanation is there? Today, roughly half the composition students at American conservatories are women, and music by prominent composers who are women is performed everywhere. Women fill the ranks of orchestras as players as never before, even in once-staid Berlin. So why have so few women broken into conducting's top tier?

No one would defend appointing Ms. Alsop to this post merely as a gesture toward correcting past prejudice, however exciting the gesture. Yet she would be a plausible candidate to succeed Lorin Maazel at the New York Philharmonic, an orchestra she conducts regularly and excellently. The great European maestros - and there are not actually as many as people assume - can and must be regularly invited to conduct American orchestras. But it's time to let the new generation of Americans have a go at running things.
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Post by karlhenning » Wed Jul 20, 2005 5:44 am

Ralph wrote:Many members of the New York Philharmonic found Kurt Masur to be an abusive taskmaster. Yet even his biggest critics among the players would surely concede that he took the Philharmonic to a new level of excellence and inspired them to profound performances.
One soft violinist's "abusive taskmaster" is another musician's personal trainer.

The NYPhil got lazy. Abysmally lazy.

And it shows.

Masur was the right man for the job. But lazy musicians prefer to hear "I love you just the way you aaaaaarrrrreeee!"
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Post by Ralph » Wed Jul 20, 2005 6:21 am

karlhenning wrote:
Ralph wrote:Many members of the New York Philharmonic found Kurt Masur to be an abusive taskmaster. Yet even his biggest critics among the players would surely concede that he took the Philharmonic to a new level of excellence and inspired them to profound performances.
One soft violinist's "abusive taskmaster" is another musician's personal trainer.

The NYPhil got lazy. Abysmally lazy.

And it shows.

Masur was the right man for the job. But lazy musicians prefer to hear "I love you just the way you aaaaaarrrrreeee!"
*****

I thought Masur was great. That musicians reported needing prescription tranquilizers to get through his rehearsals was hysterically funny, especially since all conceded that like Toscanini he was a gentle, friendly colleague off the podium.
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Post by karlhenning » Wed Jul 20, 2005 6:24 am

When Masur conducted the BSO this season, it was a great concert.

I even very nearly liked Bruckner :-)
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Post by Ralph » Wed Jul 20, 2005 6:32 am

karlhenning wrote:When Masur conducted the BSO this season, it was a great concert.

I even very nearly liked Bruckner :-)
*****

Work on it, Karl. I think you and Bruckner were made for each other. :)
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Post by Michael » Wed Jul 20, 2005 9:01 am

Ralph wrote: *****

I thought Masur was great. That musicians reported needing prescription tranquilizers to get through his rehearsals was hysterically funny, especially since all conceded that like Toscanini he was a gentle, friendly colleague off the podium.
He has frequently reduced musicians to tears during rehearsals with the London Philharmonic, been most offensive and abusive and is by far the main reason for the resignation of the principal cellist, Robert Truman who plays magnificently. On hearing of Truman's resignation Masur was very upset, said he had his ideal cello sound but this player had had enough...
Granted the orchestra plays magnificently for him but at what cost? Players do take beta-blockers when he is working with them. I don't find it funny just extremely sad that musicians feel that they need to and I must point out that an orchestral musician's life can be stressful enough without having to deal with an egotistical meglomaniac.

BTW if you want to hear the old tyrant being interviewed click on the following link:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/cdreview/
Michael from The Colne Valley, Yorkshire.

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Post by Ralph » Wed Jul 20, 2005 10:23 am

I don't know what to say. I've seen Masur at open rehearsals where, perhaps, he's on his best behavior but even then he's a stern taskmaster emitting low growls and staccato directions.

I admit I'm a bit insensitive to the idea of professional musicians (or law students) being reduced to tears because of the direct severity of a conductor (law professor). But I know it happens. How many of Toscanini's musicians started crying? And he threw tantrums that no one has alleged are part of Masur's act.

An article appeared in New York and was commented on here about the use by musicians of beta blockers which some feel has an adverse impact on interpreting and playing music.

I don't think Masur is a tyrant.
Last edited by Ralph on Wed Jul 20, 2005 1:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by pizza » Wed Jul 20, 2005 11:22 am

Ralph wrote:
I admit I'm a bit insensitive to the idea of professional musicians (or law students) being reduced to tears because of the direct severity of a conductor (law professor). But I know it happens. How many of Toscanini's musicians started crying? And he threw tantrums that no one has alleged are part of masur's act.
I think musicians, lawyers and law students of the older generation were less prone to be affected by tantrums and severe criticism. It was expected and part of the game. Reiner was well-known as a major tyrant but the members of the CSO whom I knew well never felt at all threatened by him. As for lawyers, anyone who ever tried a case before the Hon. Julius J. Hoffmann and survived the experience had been to Hell and back and any criticisms or tantrums encountered from any source whatsoever after that was simply cherry pie a la mode.

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Post by Peter Schenkman » Wed Jul 20, 2005 1:08 pm

I’ve always liked my teacher at Curtis, Leonard Rose’s take on the dictatorial conductors of the era (1930-1940’s) and his orchestral experience at Curtis while a student at that institution:…………….“Fritz Reiner, a masterful musician and superb conductor, scheduled but three concerts during the academic year at Curtis. Simple arithmetic dramatizes my in-adequacies and lack of familiarity with the symphonic repertoire: in the course of four years, we gave a total of twelve concerts! Of course Reiner did teach us something of inestimable value. He was mean, nasty, sadistic, and sarcastic, and left us well prepared to face conductors of a similar disposition”……...

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Post by Ralph » Wed Jul 20, 2005 1:52 pm

pizza wrote:
Ralph wrote:
I admit I'm a bit insensitive to the idea of professional musicians (or law students) being reduced to tears because of the direct severity of a conductor (law professor). But I know it happens. How many of Toscanini's musicians started crying? And he threw tantrums that no one has alleged are part of masur's act.
I think musicians, lawyers and law students of the older generation were less prone to be affected by tantrums and severe criticism. It was expected and part of the game. Reiner was well-known as a major tyrant but the members of the CSO whom I knew well never felt at all threatened by him. As for lawyers, anyone who ever tried a case before the Hon. Julius J. Hoffmann and survived the experience had been to Hell and back and any criticisms or tantrums encountered from any source whatsoever after that was simply cherry pie a la mode.
*****

Reiner could fire musicians more or less at will and he sometimes did. I have spoken with a few CSO players from that era and while they are very proud of what the orchestra accomplished none seemed interested in seeing the experience repeated for anyone.
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Post by karlhenning » Wed Jul 20, 2005 1:54 pm

Sort of orchestral NIMBY, Ralph? :-)
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Post by Ralph » Wed Jul 20, 2005 1:55 pm

karlhenning wrote:Sort of orchestral NIMBY, Ralph? :-)
*****

A good analogy.
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Post by Michael » Wed Jul 20, 2005 5:34 pm

NIMBY?
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Post by Heck148 » Wed Jul 20, 2005 8:12 pm

the following comments from the Washington Post appeared on the IDRS board today:

<<from the 'Washington Post'

"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.">>

if these impressions are true, there would be some definite cause for concern.....

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Post by Ralph » Wed Jul 20, 2005 8:20 pm

Michael wrote:NIMBY?
*****

Not in My Backyard. A very American acronym usually applied to people who object to any or some forms of development after they've settled in to their home and neighborhood.
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Post by Werner » Wed Jul 20, 2005 9:33 pm

Heck: I've always been impressed by your posts on musical subjects, but I must confess that the quotes in your latest post on Alsop puzzle me.

I have heard her twice - once many years ago in Denver, when she conducted a symphonic program with Menachem Pressler as soloist, and last season when she did "Candide" with the New York Philharmonic. I was impressed with her both times.

And how would she have gone this far in a very tough field if the complaints quoted in your post were to be taken at face value?
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Post by Heck148 » Wed Jul 20, 2005 9:48 pm

Werner wrote:Heck: I've always been impressed by your posts on musical subjects, but I must confess that the quotes in your latest post on Alsop puzzle me.
I don't necessarily agree with those observations, as I've never worked with her before...I'm not taking sides.

these comments were apparently made to a Washington Post reporter, the musicians involved asking for anonymity.

some of the musicians are quite happy with her appointment, so it sounds like the orchestra is rather divided...
And how would she have gone this far in a very tough field if the complaints quoted in your post were to be taken at face value?
:?: she's definitely gotten mixed reviews from different orchestras, but that probably goes for every conductor in the business...

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Post by Ralph » Thu Jul 21, 2005 7:28 am

From The New York Times:

July 21, 2005
Baltimore Hires Director Over Objections of Musicians
By DANIEL J. WAKIN

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra said yesterday that it had closed a deal with Marin Alsop, announcing that she would take over as its music director in 2007 on a three-year contract.

Ms. Alsop will spend 14 weeks a season with the orchestra. Her contract also calls for recording projects and a European tour. She will conduct for six weeks of the 2006-7 season as music director-designate.

She becomes the first woman to be the music director of a major American orchestra, but her appointment was fraught with controversy. A majority of the orchestra players objected to ending the search, which began late last year, so soon. It became clear that many of the players felt Ms. Alsop did not possess what they considered sufficient musical stature for an orchestra of Baltimore's quality and history.

At a news conference, in her first comments since the controversy began, Ms. Alsop sought to play down the orchestra members' objections.

"I'm really putting it behind me already," she said. "I feel that the measure of our future together is going to be our success. And as soon as we have success together, I think we'll be married for a long time. I really think that it was a cathartic moment for them to express their concerns."

In a meeting yesterday morning with the musicians, she said, she tried to lay out her artistic vision. The meeting, she said, confirmed that they have an "excellent relationship and that this was really nothing personal."

"A lot of musicians expressed their support," she added, "and I think that we're over the big hump. I will just continue to be myself. You know respect is something you earn. It's not something that you can ever demand."

She said she was proud to be the first woman to lead a major orchestra. "Hopefully this will break a little bit of a pattern not only for women in orchestras but for women in other fields as well," she said.

Ms. Alsop, 48, a New York native, is music director of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in England and has led the Colorado Symphony Orchestra.

She also has a number of recordings to her credit, certainly part of her appeal in an age of decreased recording projects for orchestras.

Gary Gately contributed reporting for this article from Baltimore.
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Post by Haydnseek » Thu Jul 21, 2005 8:51 am

Alsop hits right notes in first appearance

New BSO music director meets dispute head-on

By Tim Smith
Sun Music Critic

July 21, 2005

http://www.baltimoresun.com/entertainme ... -headlines

Marin Alsop made her first public appearance in Baltimore yesterday after five days at the center of a news media blitz over her imminent, history-making appointment as music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra - and opposition among musicians to making an appointment so soon.

Alsop, 48, who will begin her tenure in the 2007-2008 season, quickly acknowledged the publicity and dispute at a news conference.

The New York-born conductor called the Baltimore Symphony "one of the best-kept secrets in the world" that needs to be much better known. "So far, we're doing a pretty good job of creating interest," she said with a smile.

Alsop, the first woman to be named music director of a major American orchestra, began the day at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, where she addressed the BSO privately, just before a rehearsal.

"It was my idea," Alsop said in an interview later. "I didn't meet them so I could tell the press. I did it for myself. I wasn't comfortable signing a contract until I could look them in the eye and see if we can make it work."

BSO associate conductor Andrew Constantine described Alsop's speech as "very compelling."

"She acknowledged the tension that existed. And she spoke about being an advocate for the orchestra, nationally and internationally," Constantine said. "She said she needed their support."

Jane Marvine, head of the BSO players committee, replied to Alsop's remarks on behalf of the orchestra. "Jane told Marin that the musicians would always give 110 percent," Constantine said.

Marvine, asked to comment yesterday, said, "She reached out, and we reached out."

After her appearance before the players, Alsop signed the contract, which calls for her to conduct 14 weeks each season in Baltimore. The industry average is closer to 12.

Since the news leaked late last week that she would be offered the job to succeed to eminent Russian conductor Yuri Temirkanov at the helm of the BSO, Alsop has been at the center of a dual storm of international press attention.

For achieving another milestone as a female conductor, she was assured attention. But a public, almost unprecedented declaration by BSO musicians that up to 90 percent of the ensemble wanted the search for a new music director to continue put an equally powerful spotlight on Alsop, Baltimore and its well-regarded orchestra.

Alsop addressed the dispute, the future and the making of history as she sat in a quiet corner of an Inner Harbor hotel after a news conference and luncheon with BSO staffers, board members and supporters.

"Today, I'd really just like to forget about it," she said of the more negative aspects of her appointment. "I was getting e-mails from all over telling me, 'Run from this place.' But ... I really understood that it was not personal. It got blown out of proportion."

Still, widely circulated reports of specific complaints from musicians about the conductor's rehearsal methods and the quality of her musical interpretations must have hurt. If so, Alsop showed no sign of it yesterday.

"If you have 90 players, you have at least 180 opinions," she said. "Musicians are very strong-minded and opinionated people. For me, conducting has never been a popularity contest. If I ever got to the point where I was beloved, I should probably quit."

During her career, Alsop has compiled an enviable list of concerts, recordings and news clippings. But she is her own "biggest critic," she said.

"I'm sure there are many things about my conducting that can be improved. I want to be a better conductor every time I step on the podium," Alsop said

She will also have to be a skillful diplomat at the BSO, where relations between musicians and management appear to be at a new low.

The extraordinary protest by the orchestra over the music director search "was a warning light about other issues the musicians have that need to be addressed," Alsop said.

"Musicians' lives are very stressful. People on the outside think, 'Oh, how nice, you musicians just get to do something you love.' But it's a very intense, pressurized environment. They feel they have no say in their destiny. I think all these elements lined up to produce this bizarre big bang here."

Alsop is principal conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in England. She was the first woman to head a major orchestra in that country, too.

"In England, it doesn't seem to be as dramatic," she said. "I think the papers wrote one sentence and never mentioned it again. I think maybe it's because there have been so many women in politics there."

But the gender issue never goes away. "I think I might have had my fill by now," she said. "I'm very proud of the achievement but so sad that it's [2005] and there are still many firsts for women to make. I long for the day when I will be the second or the third."

At the BSO, the conductor plans to be involved in the various concert series offered each season. Maybe even pops. "Why not?" she said.

One of her main goals is to develop a distinct profile for the orchestra.

"We're close to the competition in Washington and Philadelphia," Alsop said, "so the orchestra must distinguish itself in some way."

Although Alsop has earned a particularly strong reputation as a champion of contemporary American music, focusing largely on such repertoire would be "far too limiting."

The programming mix has "to be something that feels right," she said. "It might take some exploration to see what the community wants."

Alsop's own tastes on the podium extend from Beethoven and Brahms to Mahler, Stravinsky and Shostakovich. Offstage, she enjoys listening to the likes of Alanis Morissette, Alicia Keyes and Norah Jones. "I find them creative but unobtrusive," Alsop said.

The conductor spoke of traveling with the BSO. A European tour with Alsop is being planned.

She also wants to make recordings. The orchestra has not had any commercial releases during Temirkanov's tenure.

Since the 1980s, fewer American orchestras have been represented on disc. "I hope we can get in on what I perceive to be the last decade of classical recording," Alsop said.

The conductor also said she will be moving from New York to Baltimore, possibly as early as next year. "It's important to be a part of the community," she said.

Copyright © 2005, The Baltimore Sun
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Post by Ralph » Mon Jul 25, 2005 5:40 am

Posted on Sun, Jul. 24, 2005


Now, another blow to spirit of collegiality in orchestras

By Peter Dobrin
Inquirer Music Critic

The problem with asking people their opinions is that they give them.

As American orchestras are finding out, and as the management of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra illustrated in the last 10 days for the entire world to see, the trend in the last decade of including musicians in making important institutional decisions can produce some volatile consequences.

Empower people and they act empowered. Surprise!

After a series of agonizing missteps, the Baltimore orchestra, one of the best in the country, hired Marin Alsop as its new music director. This allowed the group to claim pioneer status as the first major orchestra with a female music director, starting in 2007.

But management made another bit of history, this one unfortunate, because it hired Alsop over the unusually public objections of its own musicians. By brushing aside the opinion of its artists on the most important artistic decision an orchestra can make, management runs the risk of setting her up for failure. The move has likely stunted the growth of Alsop's nascent rapport with the musicians, and has alerted listeners to a possibly troubled relationship - two things no orchestra ever wants to do, unless it is acting out of desperation.

The damage done in Baltimore will likely have repercussions at orchestras nationwide by stoking the fires of management-musician conflict.

We had been making progress. Including musicians on boards, board committees, and even top-layer executive committees has certainly made violinists and oboists more aware of the challenges that boards and staffs face in running an orchestra - the complexities of raising money and growing audiences, just to name two perpetual challenges.

Recently, this inclusiveness probably kept some contentious labor talks from escalating into strikes - most notably in Philadelphia.

But inclusiveness certainly hasn't ended the us-versus-them mentality. Orchestras and managements still act a lot more like adversaries than is healthy for the future of classical music.

The relevant questions for Alsop's tenure in Baltimore are:

Were the musicians upset about Alsop in particular - did they feel she was a bad fit for Baltimore? Or were they more disturbed by a process that marginalized their opinions? Could a more deft management have continued the process for a few more months until musicians felt their voices were being heard, with musicians deciding for Alsop themselves? Would the 48-year-old conductor have been hired by some other orchestra in the meantime, leaving Baltimore high and dry? We'll never know.

Even here, the jury is still out on whether Christoph Eschenbach - another conductor musicians did not ask for - will settle in as music director at the Philadelphia Orchestra. While musicians did not get to vote for or against his candidacy, they registered great displeasure when his contract was renewed last year.

Boards and managements argue that it is their responsibility to hire a music director. They pay the bills and assume the risk, and they think they alone see the big picture about whether a music director is good for all aspects of an organization - for the music, ticket sales, fund-raising and community involvement.

But hiring a music director over the objections of the musicians is an unconscionable violation of the art form, as well as of the spirit of cooperation that has emerged in orchestras nationally in the last decade or more.

Management's defiance suggests that in Baltimore, the music-making is no longer a conductor's most important quality. How can management there claim otherwise, given the overwhelming wish of musicians to continue the search?

Why should the music matter most? That's hard to explain to the business people who typically inhabit boards. Hiring a conductor has no easy analog in the professional world. It's not like an office staff being allowed to hire the CEO, not a case of the waiters being asked which chef they want. Because so much of the relationship between conductor and musicians is about feelings of mutual respect, inspiration and faith - feelings that develop over time - it's a lot more like a marriage.

We tend to frown on arranged marriages here. That's not to say they never work out. But with conductors, as with spouses, we still believe in love.

The idea of musician participation always looks great on paper. But in practice, according to orchestra board members, musicians sometimes keep silent on important issues and abstain from voting.

Why? Sometimes they are afraid of seeming to speak for the entire orchestra. Sometimes they seem fearful that voting a particular way might prove unpopular with their colleagues.

Someone needs to figure out a way for musician representatives to participate fully.

It would help avert conflict, too, if board leaders would recognize that when the financial whiz on the board is advising on a financial issue, his opinion should be given the most weight, and when musicians on the board are giving their opinions on a musical matter, they should be granted the greatest authority.

Deborah Borda, president of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, told the New York Times that Alsop's ascension, as a woman heading a top orchestra, "would be a great leap forward and a significant moment in American musical history."

Lovely thought. But there's a bit of still-unrealized history that's just as important: finding a way for musicians and management to shed their old roles as opponents so orchestras in America can finally arrive at true institutional cohesiveness.

Let's hope Baltimore hasn't set the clock back.
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Post by Ralph » Mon Jul 25, 2005 5:41 am

chicagotribune.com

http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertain ... ritics-hed

CLASSICAL MUSIC

CSO shouldn't repeat others' mistakes
No need to rush process to find new director
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By John von Rhein
Tribune music critic

July 24, 2005

The botched process by which Marin Alsop was hired earlier this week to be the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's next music director poses a cautionary tale for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which for more than a year has been conducting a search of its own to find a successor to Daniel Barenboim.

What lessons can the CSO and its music director search committee learn from an appointment that is unpopular with a majority of the Baltimore Symphony's musicians but was applauded elsewhere?

Many were heartened by the fact that the 48-year-old American conductor will be the first woman to crack the gender barrier at a major American orchestra. But those of us who have closely followed Alsop's career progress were excited for other reasons.

She is a smart, talented, personable conductor of proven leadership skills, well-liked by the public and press, with a strong affinity for contemporary music and programming that mixes old and new music in a stimulating manner. She has strong musical ideas and a clear, vigorous way of presenting them. She has demonstrated as much in her four seasons of guest appearances with the CSO at Ravinia, most recently on July 8 and 9.

Like the St. Louis Symphony's David Robertson, Alsop would have made a credible candidate to succeed Barenboim at the CSO in 2006, if other orchestras hadn't snapped them up first.

Too little time

When news of her pending appointment was leaked to the Baltimore Sun and picked up by the news media, the players committee chimed in, claiming that seven months was not enough time to evaluate the merits of all potential heirs to Yuri Temirkanov's mantle. The musicians -- 90 percent of whom opposed Alsop's appointment but gave no reasons for doing so -- called for a longer search. The board overruled their objections and made her hiring official Tuesday.

The last thing the Chicago Symphony needs is an ugly power play that sets musicians against management and embarrasses the institution just when it should be enjoying a historic triumph. The Baltimore Symphony is a fine orchestra, but such strong-arm tactics by the players and poor judgment on the part of the administration have tarnished its reputation. Clearly there are deeper issues dividing the administration and players of the BSO that nobody cares to talk about as yet.

The only party who's innocent in all this is Alsop, an able musician now faced with the thankless task of mending fences that others have wrecked before she can get down to the business of what she was hired to do.

The Chicago Symphony already has done some things to avoid falling into the same trap. It could do even more.

The CSO's 17-member search committee has been meeting regularly since early last summer and has kept its deliberations a state secret. Six orchestra musicians (two of them women, interestingly enough) serve on the committee. Baltimore had an artistic advisory committee made up of seven orchestra members serving on the search committee.

There is no reason to believe that the CSO search committee is not listening carefully to the opinions of the musicians who were elected by the rest of the orchestra to represent them in the process. Since the players are the ones who will have to work with whoever is chosen, it stands to reason their opinions should weigh heavily in the final deliberations. The committee could, of course, go against the musicians' choice (or choices), but any disagreements should be kept behind closed doors until a final decision has been announced.

In February, the CSO conducted an open forum at Symphony Center in which members of the orchestra's extended family shared their views, but no additional forums have been announced. The public can continue to voice its opinions by mail and through a Web site, www.cso.org/search. The board and administration insist they want to make the search process as inclusive as possible. Thus far the orchestra players' committee has stayed out of the process.

What's the hurry?

The Baltimore dust-up suggests that's a wise decision. It also suggests the Chicago Symphony should be in no hurry to find the best mutually acceptable candidate. The search committee headed by board chairman William H. Strong may well require another one, two or even three years to pare down its short list to Mr. (or Ms.) Right. There is nothing unusual in this. The Boston Symphony Orchestra took five years following Seiji Ozawa's departure to negotiate James Levine's appointment. Better to entrust the CSO to good guest conductors than saddle it with a hastily chosen music director it may later regret.

If Baltimore chose a woman conductor because of her symbolic value, it undoubtedly chose her because they believe she can help reverse audience attrition and improve the orchestra's financial position as well.

Such considerations must weigh heavily as well at the CSO, which also is losing attendance and is saddled with an accumulated deficit of $14 million (Baltimore's shortfall has been variously reported as $10 million and $12 million). CSO President Deborah R. Card has vowed to balance the CSO's books by the 2006-07 season. How she intends to achieve that is not entirely clear. Does she believe that hiring a European glamor-figure such as Riccardo Muti as music director is one answer? That smacks of a managerial mind-set that went out with the passing of Herbert von Karajan and Georg Solti in the late 1980s and mid '90s.

Barenboim's international profile, after all, hasn't been enough to keep attendance from falling at Orchestra Hall. (Some claim that, in fact, he has driven away some subscribers.) Whoever succeeds him will have to combine superb musical and leadership qualities with skills that are foreign to most European conductors: a willingness to talk to audiences, get out into the community and pull in people who may not even have had any contact with classical music.

Finding that combination won't be easy. Baltimore may believe it has found the solution, but only time will tell if it has. For the chemistry that makes a conductor the right fit for a given orchestra, public and city can be exceedingly elusive.

Some conductors, such as Barenboim, are adored by their musicians at the start of their tenures only to have the relationship turn sour as the years wear on. Others, such as Lorin Maazel in Cleveland, start out with most of the orchestra opposed to them but they manage to turn things around by the end.

A group effort

Meanwhile, let the CSO board, administration and search committee take heed from the mistakes made by their colleagues on the East Coast.

Before our next music director is named, everyone -- staff, board, community, press and, yes, the musicians --must be brought onboard. The committee should not let the orchestra's audience and deficit problems prompt a panicky decision. It should take whatever time is necessary to do a thorough job. And when an appointment is made, it must be announced in a formal and proper manner, not through covert leaks and divisive backbiting in the media.

Ultimately, our choice must be about the music and who can serve that music the best. Anything less would bring an artistic disaster for which the Chicago Symphony would pay dearly for years to come.

----------

jvonrhein@tribune.com
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Post by Corlyss_D » Mon Jul 25, 2005 10:19 am

Peter Dobrin wrote:
The problem with asking people their opinions is that they give them.

As American orchestras are finding out, and as the management of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra illustrated in the last 10 days for the entire world to see, the trend in the last decade of including musicians in making important institutional decisions can produce some volatile consequences.
It was a stupid idea in the first place. I wonder what idiot thought it up. Can you imagine General Motors or Microsoft asking their employees, "Gee, tell us, please, whom should we hire to be the boss?" It's not a democratic process. Someone's got to run the goddam orchestra. It ain't the musicians' ultimately - that might work for a small ensemble, or an orchestra that started out on that premise, but you don't overlay that warm fuzzy "let everyone have a say" notion onto an organization that needs someone at the head and which has no tradition for making decisions, like who runs the shop, collectively.

Alsop was very gutsy to take the musicians on squarely. I would expect nothing less from someone with her reputation. I still give her 3 years to be ousted by the disgruntled musicians. If I were in the board, I'd be thinking about closing down the orchestra for a year or so when that happens.
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Post by karlhenning » Mon Jul 25, 2005 10:22 am

Corlyss_D wrote:Alsop was very gutsy to take the musicians on squarely. I would expect nothing less from someone with her reputation. I still give her 3 years to be ousted by the disgruntled musicians. If I were in the board, I'd be thinking about closing down the orchestra for a year or so when that happens.
Will Baltimore miss it? Or will they just go to Camden Yards? :-)
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Post by Corlyss_D » Mon Jul 25, 2005 10:48 am

karlhenning wrote:
Corlyss_D wrote:Alsop was very gutsy to take the musicians on squarely. I would expect nothing less from someone with her reputation. I still give her 3 years to be ousted by the disgruntled musicians. If I were in the board, I'd be thinking about closing down the orchestra for a year or so when that happens.
Will Baltimore miss it? Or will they just go to Camden Yards? :-)
It's funny, but the BSO and the NSO grew up about the same time. For an interanational city, capital of the world's greatest yada yada yada, Washington's rep as far as arts organizations has always been somewhat problematic. (W.C.Fields' noted that Washington could never support a robust entertainment character because there was too much competition from Congress.) It really was a small sleepy little Southern town when we moved there in 1955 and it never has escaped completely from that. It has no industry and no other function than government. It's not even the financial capital of the US, never mind the world. The transients make a stable base of contributors difficult to achieve and maintain.

Baltimore on the other hand, has a lot more going for it in all those areas, except it's too close to DC and tends to be eclipsed by DC, even when nothing happens in DC. Nothing happening can be contagious. While Zinman wasn't as famous as Slava, he was a much finer conductor, so Baltimore was a much better bet for a good concert than the NSO. Still the NSO got much more attention than the BSO. If the BSO closed down for a year (not that I expect it to do so), most patrons would land up at the NSO and the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra and not be any the worse for the experience.
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Post by Ralph » Mon Jul 25, 2005 11:10 am

Corlyss_D wrote:
karlhenning wrote:
Corlyss_D wrote:Alsop was very gutsy to take the musicians on squarely. I would expect nothing less from someone with her reputation. I still give her 3 years to be ousted by the disgruntled musicians. If I were in the board, I'd be thinking about closing down the orchestra for a year or so when that happens.
Will Baltimore miss it? Or will they just go to Camden Yards? :-)
It's funny, but the BSO and the NSO grew up about the same time. For an interanational city, capital of the world's greatest yada yada yada, Washington's rep as far as arts organizations has always been somewhat problematic. (W.C.Fields' noted that Washington could never support a robust entertainment character because there was too much competition from Congress.) It really was a small sleepy little Southern town when we moved there in 1955 and it never has escaped completely from that. It has no industry and no other function than government. It's not even the financial capital of the US, never mind the world. The transients make a stable base of contributors difficult to achieve and maintain.

Baltimore on the other hand, has a lot more going for it in all those areas, except it's too close to DC and tends to be eclipsed by DC, even when nothing happens in DC. Nothing happening can be contagious. While Zinman wasn't as famous as Slava, he was a much finer conductor, so Baltimore was a much better bet for a good concert than the NSO. Still the NSO got much more attention than the BSO. If the BSO closed down for a year (not that I expect it to do so), most patrons would land up at the NSO and the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra and not be any the worse for the experience.
Corlyss the Eternal Pessimist. My prediction is that the orchestra will work with her very professionally AND she will be a success.
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Post by karlhenning » Mon Jul 25, 2005 11:42 am

Ralph wrote:My prediction is that the orchestra will work with her very professionally AND she will be a success.
That is my expectation, as well.
Karl Henning, PhD
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Post by Corlyss_D » Mon Jul 25, 2005 2:23 pm

Ralph wrote:Corlyss the Eternal Pessimist.
Actually, I'm only a temporal pessimist. I'm an eternal optimist: things always work out in the end, but maybe not for the specific individuals involved in the original tale.
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Post by Ralph » Mon Jul 25, 2005 6:29 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:
Ralph wrote:Corlyss the Eternal Pessimist.
Actually, I'm only a temporal pessimist. I'm an eternal optimist: things always work out in the end, but maybe not for the specific individuals involved in the original tale.
*****

Time will tell but several musicians have already spoken very positively about their first meeting with their new music director. It's in EVERYONE'S best interests for a good start.
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Post by Ralph » Mon Jul 25, 2005 6:31 pm

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Music Review

A lively Alsop conducts in Florida
London Symphony musicians are supportive


By Tim Smith
Sun Music Critic

July 25, 2005

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Picture it. A TV commercial. Voice-over: "Congratulations Marin Alsop! Now that you've just been named new music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, what do you do next?"

Alsop grins broadly and declares: "I'm going to Daytona Beach!"

Not a very likely advertisement, perhaps, but the scenario isn't at all far-fetched.

A day after signing a contract with the BSO to take charge of the podium in 2007, and with the music world still buzzing about a startling request from the orchestra's musicians to continue searching for a music director, Alsop hit the beach. But not for vacation.

Her long-planned trip to Daytona was for the London Symphony Orchestra's opening concerts in the 2005 Florida International Festival. While NASCAR racing, hordes of carousing spring-breakers, and roaring Harley-Davidsons (and coleslaw wrestling by scantily clad women) during Biker Week may have entered the public consciousness a bit more firmly, this two-week summer festival says a lot about Daytona, too.

In 1966, local newspaper publisher Tippen Davidson led an effort to boost the town's cultural life by starting a festival. He sent invitations to 100 big-league organizations, seeking a partner. The London Symphony was the only taker.

The orchestra paid annual visits through the rest of the '60s. After a hiatus when funding was scarce, it returned in the 1980s and now keeps the tradition going biennially.

Musicians, family and friends are greeted warmly by the community. One little example: Volunteers keep a backstage break room heavily stocked with finger sandwiches, sweets and pots of tea for the British guests.

Although getting in some noonday sun and enjoying Florida attractions are on the agenda, orchestra members work hard here, offering chamber music and educational concerts in addition to full orchestra concerts.

Alsop's schedule wasn't exactly a breeze, either. She led two action-filled programs, did a pre-concert chat Friday night, attended the obligatory receptions and granted more press interviews. The latter invariably meant dealing again with the historic ramifications - first woman music director of a major U.S. orchestra - and controversy of last week's BSO news.

"I need time to get some distance from this and really think about everything that happened," Alsop said over a decaf latte after a rehearsal.

Although she contemplated withdrawing her name when the BSO players' frustration with the search process boiled over, Alsop sounds determined to learn more about their concerns with management. "I want to see what I can do to help them," she said.

As for the London musicians who filled the stage of the Peabody Auditorium in Daytona Beach, they couldn't have looked happier with Alsop.

At the end of Saturday's rehearsal for a Bernstein on Broadway program, violinist Lennox Mackenzie stood up to thank her on behalf of the orchestra, prompting hearty applause from his colleagues.

"We love her, and we want to keep seeing her," Mackenzie said later backstage. "You can always rely on her when she conducts. You can't get lost with her. And she turns up with a sense of humor. She gets into the banter with us [at rehearsal]. Some musicians may look on her as being flippant, but she's not."

Mackenzie, the LSO's "sub-leader" (like an associate concertmaster in an American ensemble), said he was "surprised and disappointed" to hear about apparent dissatisfaction among BSO players. "I hope things develop well for her there," he said.

Her LSO concerts gave Alsop an opportunity to reaffirm the scope of her repertoire and her audience rapport.

On Friday evening, about the same time TV viewers were learning that she was named ABC World News Tonight's "Person of the Week," Alsop fielded thoughtful questions from a large pre-concert audience. She deftly discussed such things as extra-musical meanings in Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, female composers and "the Leonard Bernstein obsession I had as a kid."

That obsession did not necessarily result in emulation. Her interpretation of Beethoven's Fifth had little of the gravity and inner drama that Bernstein brought to the score but made effective points primarily through rhythmic thrust. Alsop drew a mostly spot-on performance from the LSO, which easily retains its ranking among the world's finest (and certainly among the liveliest).

A theme of battling against fate unified the program, which started with a bracing sweep through Verdi's La Forza del Destino Overture.

An otherwise vivid account of Shostakovich's Violin Concerto No. 1 (with bold soloist Sara Chang) lacked the extra, soulful dimension and sense of deep personal struggle that current BSO music director Yuri Temirkanov can uncover in this score.

After a fairly rough rehearsal for Saturday's salute to Bernstein's show music (the festival programs get only one run-through), Alsop and the LSO had a great night.

The Symphonic Dances from West Side Story rocked. The Londoners played them with a decidedly American accent, but couldn't resist a little devilish Brit wit; both at rehearsal and in the concert, when required to shout "Mambo!" most of the players substituted a mild, not easily detected obscenity.

Alsop took Bernstein's Candide Overture at a surprisingly undercharged pace but had dance episodes from On the Town and the overture to Wonderful Town cooking with gas. There was abundant style from conductor and orchestra the whole evening, along with a good deal of charm from Laura Benanti and other vocalists.

Both nights gave ample evidence of what can happen when Alsop and a top orchestra are in sync. It will be interesting to see and hear what develops in Baltimore.
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Post by Ralph » Tue Jul 26, 2005 9:43 pm

From The Herald (U.K.):

Jumping hurdles to pick up the baton
MICHAEL TUMELTY July 27 2005
IT would be wholly uncharacteristic of Marin Alsop to be smug. But if the 48-year-old New Yorker permits herself a wry smile of self-satisfaction at her appointment as music director of Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, it will be begrudged by no-one.

She will be the first woman to lead a major US orchestra: a historic appointment. But it is a personal landmark for Alsop who, en route to the top, has encountered resistance, rejection, and gender-based prejudice.
From the moment she decided that conducting was to be her career, when she was taken as a youngster to see Leonard Bernstein in action, she came up against brick walls and glass ceilings.

"Women just don't conduct," her violin teacher told her. Alsop persisted, but noted that whenever she attended a conducting seminar, she was the only female in the class.

After Yale, she went to Juilliard, where every application to join the conducting programme was met by rejection. Alsop refused to be sucked into paranoia about gender prejudice and decided to forge her own path.
But to secure an audition as a conductor you needed experience. To get that experience, you needed access to an orchestra, which she did not have.

Rather than give in to frustration, she determined to form her own orchestra. First, she founded a string-based jazz group with herself as leader-director. They played night clubs, jazz clubs and cruises, building relationships with singers such as Mel Torme.

Ultimately, in 1984, she founded Concordia, a London Sinfonietta-style ensemble, specialising in American music, from unfamiliar versions of Gershwin's music to the unknown orchestral music of stride pianist James P Johnson.

Concordia became an influential band, whose recordings brought Alsop's name to a wider audience.

A critical moment arrived when Leonard Bernstein, the giant who had originally inspired her, saw her work at Tanglewood Summer School, was impressed at her potential and took her under his wing. Bernstein was the single most influential musician in America. Doors began to open.
Credibility and engagements were not long in following. Soon, she had three conducting posts with minor outfits: the Richmond, Long Island and Eugene symphony orchestras.

"Suddenly, I went from 15 concerts a year to 50," recalls Alsop. Colorado Symphony Orchestra was first to give her a major post, St Louis Symphony followed. She has now conducted all the premier-league US orchestras. She has established strong territory in the UK, having conducted all the leading British orchestras (her Brahms symphony cycle with London Philharmonic is being recorded on the Naxos label).
She also secured posts with the City of London Sinfonia and the RSNO, with whom she recorded a deeply impressive survey of the orchestral music of fellow countryman Samuel Barber.

All this was rather against the odds, she reflected. "If it's three strikes and you're out," she said on a recent visit to Scotland, "then I was there. I'm a woman, I'm no longer young and I'm American."

Her age, frankly, has not been an impediment. Her being an American has. She'll go on for hours about this one: that American audiences and orchestras have long looked to the European tradition for their conductors (preferably grey, grizzled and venerable).

"Bernstein broke the mould and a few followed, like Leonard Slatkin and Michael Tilson Thomas. But it's still a big problem," she says.
She'll go on even longer about the gender issue. "It's vastly improved," she said. She now sees 50 female students at a seminar where, not long ago, there were 10.

"But if I ever break through that glass ceiling and get a top US conducting post," she has said in the past, "there'll be no flood of women. It'll take generations to change."

In Baltimore, she'll have the clout to help effect that change.
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Post by Ralph » Thu Jul 28, 2005 4:28 am

The loneliest job on earth
By Norman Lebrecht / July 27, 2005



'I feel like the victim of a hit and run accident,' said Marin Alsop when I rang to congratulate her. It seemed a strained reaction from a serious conductor who, aged 48, had just become the first woman chief of a US big-city symphony orchestra. But the circumstances of her appointment had been stressful, to say the least.

Alsop is principal conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, which plays tomorrow night at the BBC Proms. She has made two-dozen popular recordings and is high on the guest list of major orchestras. She was well due for an upgrade.

Early last week, the board of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra let it be known that Alsop was to be the next music director, succeeding the Russian Yuri Temirkanov who had improved playing quality but failed to connect with community bigwigs. On a shortlist made up of an Austrian plodder and two pinpricks from Norway and Spain, Alsop's was the only quality name, and the only American. On form, she was a shoe-in.

However, no sooner was her name on the wires than a committee representing a majority of the players issued a statement condemning the 'premature conclusion of the search process' and asking for more time to give the lesser fry a chance. They had nothing against Alsop as a woman - the spokesperson was a female English horn - nor did they reject her musically, after repeated dates as a guest conductor. This seemed to be just another of those occasions when musicians pick the worst possible moment to air unrelated internal grievances.

Alsop, shaken, asked to meet the rebels. 'We had a private meeting. I told the band I wasn't comfortable signing til I had talked to them. The musicians were conciliatory. I decided to walk in cold and see if I can be helpful to them, get them into a positive way of thinking by setting a very clear artistic agenda for the next few years.'

That's Marin Alsop, through and through. Of all current conductors, she is probably the best facilitator, the one who gets things done. At Bournemouth, where she has been in charge since 2002, she has worked up a worldwide reputation on Naxos Records - pitiful fees, mass distribution - with a stream of easy-listening Americana.

Some concerts on the South coast sell out six weeks in advance. A ticket was said to have fetched £170 on e-bay. There's a buzz about Bournemouth that is lacking in bigger UK orchestras. She has become regular with the London bands, playing Daytona, Florida, last week with the LSO and recording a Brahms cycle with the London Philharmonic.

Her Prom is a typical Bournemouth bill of John Adams overture and Prokofiev ballet with a John Corigliano movie score, The Red Violin, as centrepiece. 'I'm so proud of Bournemouth,' she glows. 'The players are not just exceptional musicians, they're really good people. They've been very intelligent in building long-term relationships with many conductors. They tap into my strengths. I feel as if I've had a big impact, but I'm not absolutely essential to them.'

This, for a conductor, is very small talk indeed. Most tell you how they changed an orchestra. Alsop tells you how she achieves personal development through working with musicians she likes and respects. She came up the hard way in New York, the child of two musicians, failed to get into Juilliard, formed her own chamber orchestra and finally got to sit in Tanglewood at the feet of her hero, Leonard Bernstein.

She was music director for 12 years in mountainous Colorado before landing the Bournemouth job. She has since been twice shortlisted for frontline US orchestras, and twice spurned for less interesting males. It is nothing short of scandalous that five years into the 21st century, when most orchestras have a preponderance of young women players, none in America has yet dared to appoint a woman chief conductor.

Baltimore is not Big Five, nor even top ten in terms of budget and reputation, but it is well-regarded and within easy commuting distance of the White House. If Alsop makes a good fist of things she will be in line for the next prime slot, in Philadelphia or New York. She sees the Baltimore uprising as an outlet for 'other frustrations' – a feeling that the management (and some conductors) were not listening to the players' concerns. 'They felt unvalued,' she says. 'I need to get a line of communication going. I don't have to be in love with people to work effectively, as long as we all have the good of the orchestra at heart.'

Intensely practical, she juggles a transatlantic travel schedule with the needs of a two year-old son ('I have a wonderful nanny, and a partner'). But she is acutely aware of the responsibility that rests on her as the woman who has got further than any other in a field stubbornly resistant to her sex.

Fifteen years ago, it became possible for the first time to imagine a future for women in the podium. Neville Marriner yielded his Academy to Iona Brown; Ilya Musin, Gergiev's teacher, named Sian Edwards as his most promising pupil; the American Symphony Orchestra appointed Catherine Comet as principal conductor. Jane Glover took over the London Mozart Players. One by one, they fell to earth. Brown and Comet retired hurt. Sian Edwards was thrown to the wolves by unsupportive bosses at English National Opera. Andrea Quinn was forced out of the Royal Ballet orchestra, moving to New York City Ballet. Jane Glover became a governor of the BBC.

Today, apart from Alsop, the only women making headway are Emmanuelle Haim, a French baroque specialist, and Susanna Malkki, a fast-rising Finn who has just been named music director of the Ensemble Intercontemporain in Paris. Neither does mainstream repertoire. Simone Young, in Hamburg, sticks mostly to opera. Alsop has the symphonic ground to herself.

Against that sorry backdrop, her Baltimore appointment assumes cosmic dimensions, almost a matter of make or break for women in the podium. The loneliness of her position has begun to dawn. 'How much this has to do with any historical significance?' says Alsop guardedly. 'I honestly don't know. It's hard to tell when you're in the eye of a storm. For me, now that I've got the job, I want to sit back and refocus.' She plans to extend her Bournemouth contract for two more years and move home to Baltimore, once she has checked out pre-schools and supermarkets. 'I see,' she says warily, 'great potential there.' She knows, more than anyone, how much rides on her success
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