Alsop meets public, players

BSO's steps meant to restore harmony

July 21, 2005|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

Saying they had found "a dynamic leader to restore the vigor to our organization and be an ambassador to our community and the world," BSO officials formally introduced Marin Alsop as their new music director yesterday.

The announcement capped a tumultuous five days during which many orchestra members objected strongly to the timing of her appointment. Yesterday's presentation and a morning sit-down between Alsop and the BSO's musicians were part of an effort to try to offset any lingering disharmony.

"In our quest for a new music director," BSO president James Glicker said in the swank top-floor restaurant of the Hyatt Regency hotel, "we set out to find an extraordinary individual who had an array of rare talents in today's classical world."

Alsop, 48, will become the first woman to head a major American orchestra when she assumes the BSO post for the 2007-2008 season. She will be the 12th music director in the orchestra's 90-year history. Her contract runs for three years.

Dressed in black pants and a blue top, a beaming Alsop thanked the BSO's board and praised Baltimore as a "vital, vibrant, exciting" city. She also noted the controversy, quipping, "So far, we're doing a pretty good job of creating interest, so I hope that we can continue the interest, perhaps on a different level."

Sunday, BSO musicians issued a statement, pleading with the board to take more time in searching for a successor to Yuri Temirkanov, who will step down in June. While never mentioning Alsop by name, the statement promised that, "If the Board of Directors makes a decision opposed by a vast majority of the orchestra, all confidence in the current leadership of the orchestra would be lost."

Alsop met with symphony musicians at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall yesterday morning before the news conference.

"She spent about 10 minutes articulating her vision, her hopes and her desires for the orchestra, and also, a commitment to the musicians," said Peter Landgren, a 27-year BSO veteran and its associate principal horn player. "I think that was vital and important for the musicians to hear."

Landgren, who served with Alsop on the National Orchestral Institute faculty, predicted BSO players would quickly be won over by their new leader. "They will play for her," he said, "and they will dedicate themselves to making music with her."

Musicians have claimed the symphony did not pay enough attention to their thoughts on who should be chosen to lead the orchestra. But board member Jeffrey F. Liss disagreed, saying the board took into account "everything we heard."

"We just disagree" with the players, he said. In addition, by delaying a selection, the board would have risked losing "an extraordinary candidate."

Liss argued that if BSO officials extended the process much longer, "then you put yourself in the position where it's almost assured that you would not have a new music director in place [when Temirkanov leaves]."

Decatur Miller, a BSO board member for 35 years and a member of the search committee, said, "I lost sleep over this. I never thought I would vote against the musicians' preferences, but I'm absolutely confident that we did the right thing. I think this will work out."

Both Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley were busy yesterday, accompanying President Bush on his visit to the Port of Baltimore. O'Malley sent his chief of staff, Clarence Bishop, to welcome Alsop, while Ehrlich sent the executive director of the state Council for the Arts, Theresa M. Colvin.

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