Musical chairsFORTUNATELY, the eminent Russian conductor...

NOTES AND COMMENTS

June 26, 1999

Musical chairs

FORTUNATELY, the eminent Russian conductor Yuri Temirkanov signed on as music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra through the 2002-2003 season. That makes Baltimore a winner in the great conductor shuffle going on.

Seiji Ozawa, the 63-year-old who has been music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra for 26 years, is quitting as of August 2002 to become music director of the Vienna State Opera.

The nimble Japanese conductor who dances on the podium with pixie charm will be missed by many who believe he burnished that orchestra into the nation's greatest. But August 2002 cannot come a day too soon for vocal contrarians, including some Boston Symphony players, who maintain that under his baton BSO is not nearly as good as it should be and who blame him for tumult at the Tanglewood summer home and music school of the orchestra.

Boston will be looking for a new music director, presumably one who can bring order to the ranks. The New York and Philadelphia orchestras are also shopping for music directors who can bring in new audiences. Presumably, Chicago is not. Its music director, Daniel Barenboim, directs the German State Opera -- and coveted the Berlin Philharmonic.

It was not to be. Berlin Philharmonic players voted for Sir Simon Rattles, the young Englishman who took the City of Birmingham Symphony from obscurity to world prominence in a mere 16 years, and who quit there a year ago.

Some less eminent orchestras are also shopping for conductors. It is comforting not to be among them.

Mr. Temirkanov has St. Petersburg and Baltimore, two great historic port cities, and what more could any conductor want? There's enough on his plate. The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra acted in time in signing him up.

Clinton's dialogue

SOMETHING happened to President Clinton on his way to establishing a legacy of racial reconciliation: Slobodan Milosevic and Monicagate got in the way.

The president never provided strong leadership for his race initiative. Nothing tangible came from town meetings. His conversation on race often turned into an argument over where to begin the discussion.

Mr. Clinton deserves credit for setting an ambitious goal and attempting to close the nation's racial divide. He shoulders much of the blame, however, for allowing the initiative to go the route of health-care reform.

Now the president is writing -- or having ghost written -- a book about race in a last-gasp attempt to provide leadership. But that project is having a hard time getting off the ground, too.

All's well...

THE BANK of Scotland has apologized for its naivete in getting involved with television evangelist Pat Robertson.

The bank came under pressure to get out of a business deal with Mr. Robertson after he referred to Scotland as "a rather dark land" because of its tolerance of gay people.

Rightly, that didn't sit well with many Scots, who -- despite their established state religion -- view tolerance as a virtue, not a vice.

Pub Date: 6/26/99

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