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Alsop hits Baltimore

img  Tobias
Marin Alsop has been awarded the positon of new Music Director at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, a job she will actively take over from her Russian collegue Yuri Temirkanov in the 2007-08 season. According to the Chairman of the BSO, Philip D. English, there were three main reasons for deciding on Alsop: Firstly, she was a "visionary", which could mean that the Orchestra could once again continue David Zinman's path towards new music - a path the Symphony left under Temirkanov, a fervent lover of the traditional repertoire (his appointment actually led Zinman to resign as conductor emeritus). Secondly, she had experience and was acknowledged to be a "world class conductor". And thirdly, she had proven to be a master at recording music as well (which hints at a strengthened effort to capture the music of the BSO on disc).

Actually, Ms. Alsop hardly needs any praise. She's conducted most of the World's great Orchestras, she's amassed a whole house full of awards, she's released more CDs than one could listen to in a life-time (and received more friendly reviews than one could possibly read for them) and up to now, all the musicians she's been residing over, have loved her. So it was quite an oddity that the instrumentalists of the Baltimore Symphony didn't want the search for a new conductor to end. A letter from one board member to another quoted technical limitations as the root of evil and naturally the gender card has been played. Moderate observers have put the question down to a mere power struggle: Even if they thought Alsop to be an adequate choice, musicians wouldn't want to accept her unless they had expressely been given the chance to have their voice heard.

We don't really want to go into the details of this. There's a certain logic to the search for a new Musical Director at any given concert hall and most likely it has a lot to do with power. But think about this: The choice of principle director for a Symphony could be a process of grace, of honour and of grandeur. Even those citizens that don't listen to Classical Music at all can feel elevated by the mere fact that a great maestro has been appointed to reside at their home town (so it was, for example, with Sir Simon Rattle in Berlin). And it could be so simple. Just as in soccer, musicians are hardly the best panel to judge on who's to "lead" them. But they are the one's who will feel the effects of this decision most. So if they are not even able to air their sentiments, hopes and fears they are right to be disappointed.

As so often before, too many people have got it wrong. The board was wrong not even to listen to the musicians and to not communicate more delicately in this affair. The musicians were wrong to bring up some rediculous arguments against Alsop. And everyone was wrong in even allowing their petty self-interest to tarnish the beauty of this decision:

With Marin Alsop, he BSO has found a brilliant new conductor with energy and international standing, a once-in-a-million person who can bring together the new and the old, the traditionalists and the revolutionaries. Let's celebrate not quarry!

Homepage: Marin Alsop
Homepage: Marin Alsop at PR2 Classic
Source: Marin Alsop at the New York Times
Source: Marin Alsop at the Philadelphia Inquirer
Source: Marin Alsop at

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