Question of the Month Now that Afghanistan's Taliban...


January 19, 2002

Question of the Month

Now that Afghanistan's Taliban regime has collapsed, do you favor military action against Iraq, Iran, Syria or other states that may have harbored terrorists or supported terrorism?

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BSO turns deaf ear to choral tradition

During my tenure in the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) from 1979-1991, I was a witness, and an honored part, of its growth from a fine regional symphony into a world-class ensemble.

During the music directorships of Sergiu Comissiona and later David Zinman, the quality of the orchestra rose steadily. With Edward Polochick as choral director, the chorus got better and better. Now I read that, for "artistic and financial reasons," the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Chorus is slated for elimination ("BSO decides to cut chorus," Jan. 13).

This is a big mistake on the part of Music Director Yuri Temirkanov and BSO management. The chorus is a huge asset to the BSO, and the cost of running it is about one half of 1 percent of the BSO's budget.

How is the proposed elimination of this choral group going to save the orchestra any money? Professional singers will have to be hired to perform choral works, and they will not sing for free.

Many, if not all, members of the chorus are BSO subscribers, and I'm sure many of their friends are as well. How does dissolving the chorus foster good will among the concert-going public of Baltimore?

The present music director seems to believe he must tear down the organization and rebuild it his way, almost from the ground up. In the short time since Mr. Temirkanov assumed his post, I have seen many former colleagues, several of them personal friends, demoted or fired.

Contrast this with the way Mr. Zinman managed to keep the orchestra growing, making numerous fine recordings (winning a Grammy or two, to boot), conducting the orchestra on several very successful foreign tours, with virtually no personnel changes.

Mr. Temirkanov should know it is much easier to ruin an orchestra than to build one. If the present trend continues, there will be no BSO left, never mind a chorus.

Kevin Cardiff


The writer is a former violinist for the BSO.

With the announcement by BSO President John Gidwitz that he and his board of directors have decided to dissolve the 147-member BSO Chorus at the end of this season, you cannot but wonder if management has completely lost touch with reality.

This 32-year-old unpaid choral group has consistently been applauded by BSO audiences, world-renowned guest conductors and music critics for its outstanding performances. Just two years ago, Mr. Gidwitz himself showered the chorus with lavish praise in the BSO Overture Magazine, extolling its priceless value.

When Mr. Gidwitz was questioned by shocked members of the chorus as to what brought on this sudden action, he said the decision was not financially motivated but that the BSO, as it strives to become a "world-class orchestra," does not have room for the chorus or, for that matter, any large amount of choral music.

Certainly, with this philosophy, it won't be long before we can drop the word "Baltimore" from the name and start calling the BSO simply the "World-class Symphony."

How often have we seen this same selfish idea applied in the field of sports, leading eventually to the total alienation of the community that the organization purports to represent? Why should our state government continue to give large sums of our tax dollars to such a self-serving entity?

Board members, patrons and legislators need to demand an accounting for this decision. Maybe it would be better to change symphony management than eliminate the chorus.

Richard S. Holland

Ellicott City

The writer is the immediate past president of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Chorus.

The BSO's recent decision to disband its chorus after this season is a tremendous blow to the regional arts community.

There are other fine choral groups in town, but area music lovers will now have to travel to other cities to hear certain works because the huge chorus required to perform them must be supported by an organization such as the BSO.

As a music industry professional, I am unaware of any other major U.S. orchestra that does not have an in-house chorus.

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