Temirkanov will remain with BSO

The music director signs an `evergreen' contract with the orchestra

May 16, 2002|By Tim Smith | Tim Smith,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

Music director Yuri Temirkanov has agreed to stay with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra after his initial contract expires at the end of the 2002/2003 season on a year-to-year basis.

Temirkanov and the BSO have settled on an "evergreen" agreement, a type that usually can be renewed - or canceled - with at least one year's notice.

The arrangement, which is common in many major symphonies, including the Philadelphia Orchestra, ends months of speculation over the future of Temirkanov's association with the BSO, a partnership that has earned high praise for its artistic achievements.

FOR THE RECORD - In an article in yesterday's Today section about the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, some planned personnel changes were incorrectly described. Current assistant principal oboist James Ostryniec will retain his position. Upon the hiring of a new principal oboist, current principal oboist Joseph Turner will become associate principal. The Sun regrets the error.

"This is wonderful news," BSO chairman Calman J. Zamoiski Jr., said yesterday. "We look forward to a very long relationship with Yuri."

Jeffrey Stewart, chairman of the BSO's players committee, echoed the sentiment. "I think the musicians are generally heartened by this and what it means for the future," he said.

"It represents a commitment to the highest artistry that Maestro Temirkanov brings to the orchestra. He's a great, great musician. And I think our relationship with him is really maturing, artistically and personally."

Temirkanov, 63, who also is music director of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic in Russia, assumed the BSO post in January 2000, succeeding David Zinman's 13-year tenure. Since arriving in Baltimore, he has encouraged a darker, richer string sound and a decidedly emotional level of expression throughout the ensemble.

"His connection to the orchestra has grown and deepened this year," Gidwitz said. "They have gotten closer."

There also have been tense moments, caused by Temirkanov's decision to make some personnel changes, but morale seems to have improved considerably since his most recent appearances with the orchestra in April.

In addition to a new principal trumpet, principal second violin and assistant concertmaster already in place, a new concertmaster will join the orchestra next season. And auditions are under way for two other key positions that have much to do with an orchestra's overall sound and character - principal oboe and principal cello.

The latest round of changes involves musical chairs for some BSO members: principal oboist Joseph Turner will become assistant principal; assistant principal oboist James Ostryniec will become third oboe. Principal cellist Mihaly Virizlay will relinquish his post due to health concerns but plans to remain in the cello section.

"I think [Temirkanov] feels it is now his orchestra," Zamoiski said, "and we're certainly pleased with the leadership he has provided."

Zamoiski said that "modest increases" in Temirkanov's compensation would be part of the new deal. The music director currently earns about $500,000 at the BSO, a figure considered a bargain by industry insiders.

Temirkanov will continue to devote 12 weeks each season to the BSO, a fairly typical amount among internationally active music directors. He has already made firm commitments for the BSO's 2003/2004 season.

"And we have him scheduled through the opening of Strathmore Hall [the arts center and second home for the BSO being built in Montgomery County], so that takes us to spring 2005," Zamoiski said.

The negotiations were marked by a certain informality; Temirkanov is not represented by an American manager.

"It felt more relaxed than any process like this I've ever been involved in," said BSO president John Gidwitz. "We haven't finished all the details, but we have an understanding in principle. The [evergreen arrangement] is what felt most natural for Temirkanov."

"He's committed to making it work," Zamoiski said.

Fixed-term contracts were the norm for former BSO music director David Zinman. They are still used by many orchestras, including the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, where music director Leonard Slatkin recently renewed his contract through 2006.

But evergreen deals with music directors are also popular around the country.

"We've had that kind of relationship with all three of our recent music directors - Ricardo Muti, Wolfgang Sawallisch and now Christoph Eschenbach," said Philadelphia Orchestra president Joseph H. Kluger.

"Typically, a music director agrees to an initial term of three to five years and then moves on to this evergreen arrangement. It renews automatically unless either party decides to end it, usually with at least two years notice."

As Kluger views it, a fixed-term contract can lead to the "expectation that it's a short-term arrangement."

"In the case of institutions looking for a commitment from a leader and wanting to say, `We believe in this music director,' I think [an evergreen deal] makes a much stronger public statement," Kluger said.

"It's actually healthier. I think they're very lucky to have Yuri and to have him engage in this arrangement."

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