Zinman to leave as BSO director in June of 1998 Music director cites desire to teach and reduce stress

September 10, 1996|By Holly Selby | Holly Selby,SUN STAFF WRITER Sun music critic Stephen Wigler and staff writer Linell Smith contributed to this article.

In Tuesday's articles about the resignation of Baltimore Symphony Orchestra conductor David Zinman, two photo captions contained incorrect information. In one, Harvey M. Meyerhoff was misidentified; in the other, the caption should have referred to Zinman's return from a sabbatical in September 1995.

The Sun regrets the errors.

David Zinman, the music director who is credited with transforming the Baltimore Symphony from a solid regional orchestra to one of international renown, announced yesterday that he would resign from his position when his contract expires in June 1998 -- at the end of the season.

In an emotional speech that stunned some BSO musicians and drew tears from others, Zinman cited a desire to reduce stress and to teach music to youngsters as reasons for stepping down from the podium.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

"It is time for me to do something else in my life," Zinman said. "I'm over 60 now, and there are not many years left. There are things I want to be able to do -- like opera -- that demand that you have a month free. [And] I want to pay back what I got as a kid, I want to teach, and I'm really looking forward to it."

In 11 years, Zinman has taken the orchestra on tours of Russia and East Asia; produced with it more than 20 recordings, which won three Grammy awards; and developed a radio show that is broadcast in 180 cities.

"I got a lot out of Baltimore. I got a chance to do a lot of really great things," Zinman said. "But all things come to an end, and it would have been even harder for me to leave if I had signed another contract."

After leaving Baltimore, Zinman plans to spend his time guest conducting in the United States and working as the music director of both the Aspen Music Festival and Zurich's Tonhalle Orchestra in Switzerland.

"It's a great disappointment that David made this decision, but it's perfectly understandable, and we can only be grateful for the 13 years we will have had with him," said Calman "Buddy" Zamoiski, president of the BSO.

As music director, Zinman oversees all artistic programming of the BSO and conducts about 13 weeks of BSO concerts yearly. But contemporary music directors also are expected to be diplomat, administrator, inspiration, disciplinarian, fund-raiser, marketing tool, celebrity, autocrat and visionary.

And like most conductors of renown, Zinman has other projects. Until last year, he was artistic director for the Minnesota Orchestra's Viennese Sommerfest. Besides his Zurich post, he will become music director at Aspen next summer. He also guest conducts with orchestras from Los Angeles to Philadelphia.

"It is a very major responsibility to be a music director," Zamoiski said. "David has told me that he has no interest in being a music director at any orchestra in the U.S. other than the BSO. I'm hopeful that he will continue to live here, and he plans to continue to guest conduct."

Zinman revealed his plans to orchestra members at the end of a BSO rehearsal two days before the opening of its 1996-1997 season. "A lot of us were crying. It was totally silent in there," said cellist Gita Roche.

"I've been here since his second year and this has been one of the most thrilling jobs to have in the country. We went to Russia before anyone else. We've been to Japan with all the big boys and we've surprised people everywhere we've gone. I think everybody feels a great deal of regret, but we really understand why," she said.

The music director's announcement comes at a critical juncture for the symphony.

The BSO has been riding high since a 1994 tour of East Asia that won international acclaim. To capitalize on that success, the orchestra scheduled two more tours -- one to Florida and one to Japan. Both will be led by Zinman.

But the BSO's momentum may be affected by the terms of a year-long labor negotiation that reduced salaries for symphony performers.

The agreement, reached only five weeks ago, was necessary to counter a cumulative annual deficit of about $2.5 million, according to the BSO management. Still, it left many musicians disgruntled. (The symphony also plans to combat the deficit by launching a fund-raising drive.)

Now, before a hunt for a new music director can be undertaken, the symphony must resolve a number of questions: What kind of music director does it want to hire as a replacement for Zinman? And what kind of music director can it attract and afford?

"We went through all of those questions when we went through our search, and it was very constructive," said Gideon Toeplitz, managing director of the Pittsburgh Symphony, which hired a new music director in 1995.

"The thing to remember is that David is an international conductor and if the BSO wants an international conductor who will take it on tours and do recordings -- that list of conductors is very different than if you want someone to be more of a community orchestra leader."

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