THE LONG GOODBYE began this month with Debussy and Rossini. In April, when Gisele Ben-Dor conducts her last Annapolis Symphony concert, she will depart with the strains of Bela Bartok and Dvorak.
Mrs. Ben-Dor's six seasons in Maryland's capital have solidified the reputation of its symphony. The quality of soloists has risen dramatically. So have the technical level and discipline of the orchestra. Mrs. Ben-Dor's abilities have not gone unnoticed. Among the reasons she is leaving Annapolis are her commitments elsewhere: Santa Barbara (Calif.) Symphony, Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra of Boston, performances abroad and recording contracts.
There is no shortage of conductors who want to succeed her. A search committee is sifting through 248 applicants. Before making a permanent appointment, the committee will invite the five or six finalists to be guest conductors during the 1997-1998 concert season. This is a smart way to go about settling on a replacement. It allows the symphony's musicians as well as the audience to size up candidates.
The Annapolis Symphony Orchestra has come a long way since its founding in 1962. It never lacked for ambition. But in the beginning many of its performers, including high school students, were comparatively inexperienced. A higher degree of professionalism was introduced by Leon Fleisher, who recruited musicians from Baltimore's acclaimed Peabody Institute. Mrs. Ben-Dor has insisted on a higher level still. It is no exaggeration to say that under her stewardship the orchestra developed a new, more mature and consistent sound.
The departure of Mrs. Ben-Dor will be the second major change affecting the symphony in a year. In May, Patricia Edwards, who had been its executive director for nine years, resigned, saying it was time for a more business-oriented manager. That person turned out to be Jane Schorsch, formerly executive director of the Handel Choir of Baltimore and audience development manager of the Baltimore Symphony.
This is a difficult time for many American orchestras, as musicians' strikes in Philadelphia and elsewhere indicate. As the baton at the Annapolis Symphony changes hands, the orchestra will have to redouble efforts to maintain its financial stability.
Pub Date: 10/14/96