Zinman Reprise

April 30, 1993

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has come through the recession intact. The gains of recent years are held -- while some orchestras slipped -- and the ground is solid for further artistic and reputational advance. One sign of this is the bigger names lately among the guest conductors. Another is the four-year contract just signed by Music Director David Zinman for the seasons 1994-1998.

Keeping Mr. Zinman was the key. Since his arrival in 1985, the Baltimore Symphony has advanced steadily in musical excellence, tours, broadcasts, recordings, endowment and the mystique that is inevitably part of an orchestra's position in the national pecking order.

With the departure or take-over of large local firms that have been, or might have become, major contributors to Baltimore arts organizations, the orchestra's self-confidence might have been in jeopardy. Now it is not.

Other, better known orchestras are looking for music directors and Mr. Zinman is something of a hot property, especially after his incredibly best-selling hit smash record with the London Sinfonietta of Heinryk Gorecki's Third Symphony.

To keep him in Baltimore, Mr. Zinman's commitment here was reduced to 15 weeks a year, from the 20 in the six-year contract he signed in 1987 that goes through next season. And he gets to head a second orchestra, as many top conductors do, in his case the Tonhalle in Zurich, Switzerland.

But the real lure is the symphony's contractual commitment to national and international tours and recordings. The cancellation tours and records in the recession seasons had clearly depressed conductor and orchestra, although some better-known symphonies made even more drastic cutbacks in the same period. The board's pledge of tours and records in the future is an expression of confidence in its own fund-raising abilities, which the conductor's presence helps.

Maestro Zinman has done great things for Baltimore, which has reciprocated in kind for Mr. Zinman's career. The continued association now guaranteed through the 1997-1998 season means good things for Baltimore's musical future and, we like to believe, Mr. Zinman's.


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