Life after Zinman 13 seasons: Conductor improved BSO, making himself easier to replace.

September 11, 1996

THANKS TO DAVID ZINMAN, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is in a strong position to seek his successor in a world search. Music lovers in Baltimore are shocked by the planned retirement from this orchestra of the music director who has led it for 11 seasons to peaks of excellence and eminence it had not achieved before.

But he had detached himself somewhat from the involvement of his earlier years, giving a hint of this, and he has given two full seasons' notice. He acted correctly in allowing time for an orderly process in picking a music director to launch the 1998-99 season.

When Sergiu Comissiona decided to move on, many thought him the irreplaceable music director who had brought the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra into the international musical world in its fine home, built thanks to the generosity of the late Joseph Meyerhoff and the state of Maryland. Mr. Zinman was younger, American, on the rise, and rather quickly made orchestra supporters thankful for the change.

As Mr. Comissiona raised the orchestra to a plateau from which Mr. Zinman could elevate it still further, that can happen again. As the orchestra seeks expressions of interest from the rising conductors in the world, it has as enticements the stability of the five-year contract recently signed with orchestra players, the acoustical setting of Meyerhoff Hall and the orchestra's enhanced reputation from records and tours which Mr. Zinman led.

Without getting into the game of naming candidates, it is worth noting that the field has been expanded by political change in Eastern Europe pushing many talented conductors into the marketplace, by the growth of talent in East Asia and by the growing success of American conductors abroad. There is a more-than-adequate talent pool out there.

David Zinman's superb musicianship will be missed two years hence. Meanwhile, the orchestra can find a successor of eminence who will become immersed in the orchestra, merging personal with institutional reputation. A successor who will take the orchestra Mr. Zinman bequeathes to even greater heights.

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