BSO, citing lack of funds, cancels '92 tour of Europe

December 20, 1990|By Eric Siegeland Stephen Wigler

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, unable to raise money during a statewide economic downturn, has canceled its tour of Europe scheduled for the spring of 1992.

The state's largest and most visible arts organization could not get corporate commitments to underwrite some $500,000 in expenses for the tour, despite extending the deadline for receiving such pledges for six weeks, Executive Director John Gidwitz said yesterday.

The BSO has also withdrawn its request for a special $250,000 state grant to help pay for the projected $1.2 million cost of the tour. The orchestra's management felt it was inappropriate to ask for additional funds at a time when the state was considering layoffs and cutting social services because of budget deficits, he said.

Mr. Gidwitz conceded that there was "widespread disappointment" throughout the orchestra's ranks over the cancellation. The three-week tour of undisclosed "European capitals" was intended to build upon the success of the BSO's acclaimed 1987 tour of Europe and the Soviet Union.

"From the orchestra's point of view, it was the right time to goback," he said, noting that such trips enhance the reputation of an orchestra and help attract financial support.

BSO Music Director David Zinman, contacted in Paris where he was guest-conducting the National Orchestra of France, said he is "disappointed both for the orchestra and for myself. But everything was done to raise that money. That we couldn't raise it indicates just how hard these times are.

"I hope that we can raise the money in the future because such a tour is vital for the growth of the orchestra."

The BSO played on the West Coast and in Arizona in 1988, the Eastern United States in 1989 and the Midwest last spring. It is not touring this season because the orchestra wanted to remain in Baltimore for its 75th anniversary year. Mr. Gidwitz said it will not tour at all next season but expressed hope that it will resume touring after that.

The decision by the BSO, whose annual budget of more than $15 million makes it by far the state's largest arts group, comes amid expectations of a nationwide cut in corporate support for the arts in the face of a declining economy. Several participants at a national convention of arts administrators earlier this month said that they expected corporate contributions to decline this year for the first time in nearly a quarter of a century.

It also comes as the Baltimore Opera Company is struggling to meet a fund-raising goal of $1 million by the end of this month in order to stave off possible bankruptcy. Opera officials recently put the prospects of meeting that goal at "50-50."

Local arts observers expressed regret about the cancellation and concern about what it might portend for smaller, less visible organizations.

"It's a shame, but I think it's the right decision. This is the time when everybody has to bite the bullet," said state Sen. Julian L. Lapides, D-Baltimore, a member of the Maryland State Arts Council.

"I'm sorry for the symphony," added Anne South, executive director of Maryland Citizens for the Arts, a statewide lobbying group. "It's not a positive, but I don't think it necessarily needs to be a frightening thing. It's a regrouping. We're going to have to wait and see what happens."

Mr. Gidwitz said the orchestra was concerned "about the appropriateness" of its request in light of state budget cuts.

Mr. Gidwitz also indicated the orchestra was worried that its request might jeopardize the appropriations for the state arts council, which this year awarded $5.6 million in grants to state arts organizations, including $1.16 million to the BSO. "We're trying to be responsible members of the arts community," he said.

The orchestra will use the three-week gap created by the cancellation to "ease the pressure" on its schedule and reinstate a one-week vacation for the musicians, Mr. Gidwitz said.

The difficulties experienced in raising funds for the tour have not affected the BSO's $2.6 million annual fund-raising campaign, which he said was "on track."

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