The Zinman decade at the BSO Anniversary highlight: Partnership of orchestra and conductor does wonders for both.

February 07, 1996

DURING THE DECADE that David Zinman has been its music director, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has risen to world stature. Its sound is among the most distinguished in the country. It has toured the music capitals of Europe, Asia and North America to acclaim. It has recorded with increasing frequency and success.

But as the orchestra celebrates the decade with a gala tonight featuring some of the world's foremost soloists as Zinman collaborators, it is worth reflecting that the partnership is equally valuable to the conductor. During this decade, his eminence has risen markedly, his fame has spread, the demand for him as guest conductor of other orchestras' concerts, recordings and festivals has soared.

The symbiosis reminds many of the fabled rise of the Cleveland Orchestra to Big Five ranking through the intense leadership of the conductor George Szell a half-century ago. Mr. Zinman has spent more weeks of each season with the BSO than most famous conductors do with the orchestras of which they are titular music directors. He raised his reputation through what he did here with our symphony before making best-selling records elsewhere.

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra entered this season in deficit and is asking its players to take a salary hit, yet it has more endowment than most orchestras and stronger prospects in hard times than many.

This it has made clear by engaging the great string virtuoso Pinchas Zukerman to head its summer festivals -- which Mr. Zinman is doing for the Minnesota Orchestra -- and the celebrated Broadway composer Marvin Hamlisch to program its pops concerts and perform some. Mr. Hamlisch has done wonders for the mighty Pittsburgh Symphony in that similar capacity.

The willingness of both these great musicians to enter into this relationship with the BSO is testimony to its growth and the perfection of its sound under Mr. Zinman's leadership. May the Zinman era long continue.

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