Tag Archives: baltimore symphony

red tide

There’s been quite a bit of unfortunate news for American orchestras in the past week or so.  Here’s a roundup of what I’ve noticed lately.  Fortunately, there is no mention of the Oregon Symphony here – and in fact, ticket sales for next season are very strong.  I think that people here in Portland are catching on to what some of the major orchestras in the U.S. are now realizing – that we’ve got great leadership in Carlos Kalmar, along with a great orchestra and management staff.

and, sadly, the Charleston Symphony suspended operations this week:

and there was one bright spot this week, in the form of a $30 million gift – for the MET.

And though it’s great for Carlos, Levine’s additional absence from the Boston Symphony may have some long-term consequences for the orchestra.

former PYP conductor named MD of Memphis Symphony

Mei-Ann Chen, currently Assistant conductor of the Baltimore Symphony, has been named the new Music Director of the Memphis Symphony! Congratulations to Mei-Ann! Continue reading

odds and ends

Oregon Symphony Resident conductor Gregory Vajda conducts a recording of music by his mentor, the composer/conductor Péter Eötvös, entitled As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams.  The recording is one of three nominated for the prestigious 2010 MIDEM Classical Award.

Conductor Leonard Slatkin has a compelling essay up on his website detailing his experience of having a heart attack during a performance in Rotterdam last month.

Composer Jennifer Higdon had her new Piano Concerto premiered by pianist Yuja Wang and the Baltimore Symphony under conductor Andrew Litton.  One of Higdon’s upcoming commissions is a work for the group eighth blackbird and orchestra, to be premiered by the Atlanta Symphony and Robert Spano in June 2010.

odds and ends

Some news from the orchestral front this week:

  • The Baltimore Symphony continues to shrink its budget, the musicians are cutting their wages from the 5.7% already conceded to 12.5% for the 2009-2010 season. [Washington Post]
  • Peter Dobrin writes about African-American orchestral musicians in Philadelphia. [Philadelphia Inquirer]
  • The Indianapolis Symphony declines to renew its music director’s contract. [Chicago Tribune] And the MD is very upset. [Indianapolis Star]

A few thoughts.

The Baltimore situation is disheartening, as that orchestra has been through hell and back with major financial problems several times over the last two decades, and the musicians have had an especially hard time of it.  12.5% is a big chunk of change to give up, especially when times are tough, and I give a lot of credit to the musicians – they are showing that they have a intense willingness to do their part to keep the ship afloat.  It’s too bad that it seems to always come down to major wage cuts when orchestras find themselves in difficulty – and I say this knowing full well that there’s only so much that you can cut the nuts and bolts of running an organization before you simply must start cutting payroll.  And since you have to have a full symphony orchestra to play concerts for a full season, you cannot simply lay musicians off, so it comes down to cuts in wages and benefits.

The abrupt firing of Mario Venzago in Indianapolis points to a major duality which I think needs to addressed in a serious way by American orchestras.  Orchestras desperately want someone whom concert goers and the community at large can relate to, but they also remain bewitched by conductors with a foreign accent and an exotic pedigree.  And yet boards are surprised when the European conductor doesn’t like their boring, provincial town [not my opinion] and are even more surprised when this great find of theirs actually is in demand around the world.  They want to have their cake and eat it, too.  So why aren’t more orchestras digging deep and finding some of the very good American and Canadian talent which certainly exists?  Boston has James Levine, New York has Alan Gilbert, Baltimore has Marin Alsop – clearly they are relating well to their communities, boards, and musicians – and there are hundreds of other very good conductors out there who are dying for a mid-level post.  I don’t get it.

mid-week news roundup


  • Some very sad news from the Los Angeles Philharmonic, whose Principal trombonist, Steven Witser, died of a heart attack at the age of 48 on Monday night.
  • The Ying Quartet is losing its first violinist, resulting in a quartet that will not be all siblings.
  • The Baltimore Symphony musicians have given $1 million in voluntary wage/benefit concessions and are involved in an extensive fundraising drive for the orchestra.
  • Interesting article in NewMusicBox about the efficacy of pre-concert lectures.
  • Krystian Zimerman creates a furor with his politically-based anti-US concert remarks and apparent self-imposed ban on future US performance.