Symphony for troubled times

BSO: Fine start in adversity to a properly ambitious season under a stirring conductor.

September 20, 2001

THE NATION'S grief and anger canceled many events last week. One that mercifully went forward was the opening concert of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's season.

Few who heard Maestro Yuri Temirkanov's robust "Star-Spangled Banner" will ever forget that performance.

Music belongs in life's most serious moments, never more than in last week's concerts, reprogrammed from festive Mozart to life-affirming Beethoven. The BSO is starting an ambitious season that includes a 13-concert tour of the great musical cities of Europe in November and December. Many of the works in early concerts are being burnished for that tour.

One of the world's leading conductors, Mr. Temirkanov is building on the work of his predecessors in lifting the BSO's excellence and reputation. This points to 2004 when it will begin additional concerts in the Stratford Hall Music Center rising in Montgomery County. It will compete with the National Symphony Orchestra for the favor of Washington music-lovers, without diminishing its Baltimore presence.

This optimism is not undone by a discordant note that saddens devotees of the orchestra. David Zinman, who did great things in 13 years as music director, abruptly resigned as music director emeritus and canceled appearances scheduled for March.

In an explanatory letter to the players' committee, Mr. Zinman cited the de-emphasis of contemporary American music in Mr. Temirkanov's first seasons.

Others read into this a possible resentment at personnel moves, notably the resignation at the end of last season of Herbert Greenberg, the orchestra's concertmaster for 20 seasons. Each week's guest concertmaster is presumed to be a candidate to replace him.

Baltimore audiences who are grateful for Mr. Zinman's orchestra-building are also excited by Mr. Temirkanov's romantic interpretations and by his introduction of Russian works and guest artists seldom heard here before.

They do not get to choose between the two. Mr. Zinman was then; Mr. Temirkanov is now. And the new music director brings his enthusiasms as the former one did. Undoubtedly, that was going to change some sounds.

Still, many music-lovers would be sad not to hear Mr. Zinman conduct the BSO again and hope he will reconsider.

The future of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra under Mr. Temirkanov sounds as promising today as it did two weeks ago. Mr. Zinman should be part of that, as his own predecessor, Sergiu Comissiona, still is.

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