Temirkanov is leaving his BSO post in 2006

Music director looking forward to time at home

September 11, 2004|By Tim Smith | Tim Smith,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

Yuri Temirkanov, whose uncommon artistic depth and inspiring personality has guided the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra to an exceptional level over the past four years, will step down as music director at the end of the 2005-2006 season.

"It's time," the Russian-born conductor said yesterday, explaining his decision during a break in the final rehearsal for last night's season-opening concert.

Speaking in English, rather than through his usual interpreter, Temirkanov added: "There have been some very good changes in the orchestra. It is now a better orchestra for tomorrow."

Temirkanov added that he also is looking forward to spending more time in his hometown, St. Petersburg.

His tenure officially began with the 1999-2000 season, but his first concert as music director was not until January 2000. In addition to conducting about 12 weeks each season in Baltimore (fewer last season due to illness), he has led the orchestra on highly successful tours of Europe and Japan, along with two well-received visits to Carnegie Hall. (The BSO will return to Carnegie Hall next spring.)

He left his imprint on the BSO early during his tenure, replacing several principal players, including the pivotal position of concertmaster, with musicians who greatly enhanced the ensemble's overall tone. And he steadily honed that tone to give it a burnished quality ideal for the full-bodied, deeply expressive Russian and German repertoire he favors.

"He has put such a strong stamp on the orchestra in so many ways," said Jane Marvine, head of the BSO players' committee. "What has been most inspiring about his musicality is how he feels the emotional impact of the music and can communicate it to us, so that we can deliver it to the audience."

Calman J. ("Buddy") Zamoiski Jr., chairman laureate of the BSO's board of directors, described Temirkanov's resignation as "a terrible loss.

"I'm distressed to see him go. I think he's the greatest music director and conductor in the world today," he said. "The BSO is one of the great orchestras around today, which I give him full credit for. He's brought a stature to this organization that heretofore we never had."

"It's too bad," BSO president James Glicker said of Temirkanov's decision to step down. "Phil [English, current board chairman] and I tried to get him to stay. But seven years is not a short run."

Temirkanov has been on a year-to-year contract since his initial three-year contract with the BSO expired at the end of the 2002-2003 season. "I always said I would stay to open the new hall [the orchestra's second home, the Music Center at Strathmore, in Montgomery County], and then a little after," Temirkanov said. Strathmore is scheduled to open in February.

Temirkanov will conduct 10 weeks in Baltimore this season, plus the inaugural gala at Strathmore. Next season, he will cut back to nine weeks, plus two more during the BSO's tour in Fall 2005 in Europe, with concerts planned in Spain, Italy and Austria.

Beginning in the 2006-2007 season, Temirkanov will assume the title of the BSO's music director emeritus. (His predecessor, David Zinman, relinquished that title in 2001, protesting a decline in the amount of American music being programmed by Temirkanov.)

"The silver lining in this is that we won't be losing him completely," Marvine said. "We'll have him for a few weeks each season."

How often Temirkanov will conduct once he changes to emeritus status is not yet known, but Glicker hopes the conductor will be in Baltimore "at least two weeks" during the 2006-2007 season. "And we're trying to get four weeks for '07-'08," he said.

A search committee for a new music director will soon be appointed, made up of board members, staff and musicians. "We are looking to the players for leadership and recommendations," Glicker said. "Everything is on the table."

Potential candidates will be on the guest conductor roster during the 2005-2006 season. "And we will want them to conduct more than once here," Glicker said.

Temirkanov will continue to serve as music director of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, a post he has held since 1988.

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