David Zinman joins Baltimore picket line

David Zinman joins Baltimore picket line


norman lebrecht

June 25, 2019

The former music director told locked-out musicians that he was ‘shocked, mortified and horrified’ at seeing plans to reduce the orchestra to minor-league status. He added: ‘This is a major league orchestra and it’s meant to stay that way. A long time ago, I spent 10 years blowing up a balloon. And now the balloon has been popped and everything is falling out…. it pains me to see this.’

Zinman was accompanied by his wife, Mary.


Baltimore Symphony President and CEO Peter Kjome responded: ‘We have great admiration and deep respect for our former Music Director David Zinman. ‘We appreciate his concerns over our current situation, but unfortunately those concerns do not change the facts about our financial circumstances.’


  • Don Ciccio says:

    Zinman would have had more credibility if he would have actually bothered to conduct the Baltimore Symphony, but he hasn’t done so in at least 15 years, perhaps more. Not because he was not invited.

    Don’t et me wrong, I am with the musicians.

    • Mock Mahler says:

      There’s a reason why Zinman hasn’t conducted the BSO–or at least two reasons. In 2001 he suddenly severed official ties with the orchestra, giving up his “emeritus” title and canceling a scheduled appearance. He issued a strong statement giving his reason as the conservative direction the orchestra’s programming was taking under Yuri Temirkanov.

      “Privately,” as reported in the Baltimore newspaper and whispered in the Meyerhoff, it was said that Zinman was angry over Temirkanov’s supposedly forcing out the BSO concertmaster, a close Zinman associate.

      It’s worth noting that Zinman continued to stay clear of the BSO after Temirkanov’s departure and through a dozen years of Alsop’s leadership–until the picket line.

      • Judy says:

        Yes, and likely asked back to conduct the orchestra many many times. He supports what? It’s not entirely clear. If it’s the musicians, remember they ARE the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

  • Edgar says:

    “…unfortunately those concerns do not change the facts about our financial circumstances.”

    That reveals it all: put bean counters in charge, aided by a board whose members haven’t a clue about music, and your orchestra goes out the window.

    • Dorf says:

      If you can’t pay your bills, eventually the lights get turned off and the staff leave because they are not paid. The way things are, the end is coming one way or another. The only thing that might save it is a major fund raising drive.

  • JPAULO says:

    I will not pretend to know all of the details about what got the Baltimore Symphony to this unfortunate place. I can say that having heard most of the USA’s top orchestras live over the years, I have never enjoyed any performances more than those of the BSO. Zinman, Temirkanov, Alsop and several guest conductors….and every time a truly world class performance. It’s a 70’s looking place inside, but their concert hall also boasts an amazingly fine listening experience. It will be a tragedy for the city and the arts in general to see the group lessened. Many of the players are more than qualified to go anywhere else in the world. Principal players in nearly every section are world class soloists in their own right. I find it disheartening and a scary reflection on what our culture has become that benchwarmers that never sees any game time on any Baltimore pro sports team probably make enough money combined to fund an entire BSO season. Yes, I know these teams draw huge crowds, and revenue. What next, we throw away paintings, bulldoze over historical buildings etc because they don’t get the same visitors they used to ?? Once arts institutions slide off the map, they may never come back. Why can’t our 1% see this as an emergency?? Obviously the people that can afford to support the arts simply are not being convinced to do so. It certainly in this case is not because the art in question is not of superb quality. I wish these musicians the very best outcome !! They need some emergency help, and possibly an administrative purge.

    • David Rohde says:

      While I appreciate your passion, remarks such as “a scary reflection of what our culture has become” and “throwing away paintings” and so on are not going to solve anyone’s problems. Please understand that I’m not criticizing you personally at all. These finger-wagging sentiments are almost always just below the surface in the types of letters to the editor that have become redundant in the Baltimore situation. See my comment in the thread that runs below the previous post “Detroit Musicians Attack Baltimore Distortions” for the type of letter from a concert attendee (I would love it if BSO musician advocates would stop using the word “patron”) that I think would be far more valuable.

      What I can do constructively is to elaborate on this very apt statement of yours: “Obviously the people that can afford to support the arts simply are not being convinced to do so. It certainly in this case is not because the art in question is not of superb quality.” I really can’t speak to the class of potential major donors in Baltimore, but I do know a little something about how people generate very substantial wealth in the Washington metropolitan area, which by the way is more of a high-tech center than many people realize. And remember, the BSO is also a Washington institution – it generally performs once a week at its second home at Strathmore in the Maryland suburbs of D.C.

      Clearly there’s the national trend, often remarked upon in general-interest publications, that today’s newly minted gazillionaires have a different orientation to the kinds of projects and institutions they want to fund than past industrialists and real estate moguls. But more specifically, I strongly suspect that newly wealthy people in the Washington area, especially some relatively younger ones, simply do not have the cultural reference point within their circle of long-standing friends of any experience of attending classical music concerts. Thus, the idea of supporting the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra comes across to them as a wholly theoretical proposition that doesn’t touch any particular virtue-signaling bone.

      This is exactly why I consistently advocate for the absolute primacy of putting fannies in the seats over the constant redundant language that every actual and potential concert-goer is subjected to about donations (especially the fatal phrase “ticket prices only cover a fraction of our costs,” which NEVER should be uttered during the course of any musical event that’s not explicitly a fund-raiser). You never know what the social and cultural benefits are of simply getting somebody into the concert hall in exchange for any size ticket price, since I think “free” seats somewhat degrade this benefit. I wasn’t a fly on the wall when Mr. Meyerhoff talked to supposedly two dozen potential big donors in an effort to stave off this crisis, and they all turned him down. But I can imagine how some of the conversations might have gone. I bet that some of what I’m talking about came into play.

      • JPAULO says:

        Thank you for your very respectful response !! You make excellent points. I guess what I was really driving at was how do you get people that have money to support the arts to do so. I understand and realize that the city is in trouble. I live on the east coast but not in Baltimore.

  • Karl says:

    If the money isn’t there then the money isn’t there. The city of Baltimore is not looking financially sound there days. I looked this up:
    “Baltimore City has debt of more than $3 billion, putting a roughly $14,000 burden on each of the city’s taxpayers…

    Truth in Accounting gave Baltimore a “D” for its high taxpayer burden and ranked it as the 12th worst city in the country for budget issues.”

    • Bruce says:

      You know that the city doesn’t finance the orchestra, yes?

      Often a city can be in terrible shape (Cleveland, Detroit) and yet have enough wealthy donors to keep an excellent orchestra (with excellent pay) afloat. I would guess Baltimore is a city like that, only the management has not done a good enough job wooing those donors.

      • Karl says:

        Cleveland’s economy is actually growing and improving. Their population loss has slowed greatly. Detroit IS a great example. The orchestra had to take a huge pay cut because there was not enough money to pay them. Just like what is happening in Baltimore:
        “Baltimore’s population continues to plummet. ..Census data suggests the city’s population is now just over 600,000 people. The population of the metropolis stood at roughly 730,000 in 1920.”

        Looks like the rich people are bailing out also.

    • Name says:

      Are you assuming that the Baltimore Symphony is funded by the city of Baltimore? This would be a rookie mistake for a European who knows nothing about American arts organizational structure, I guess.

      • Karl says:

        Baltimore lost their opera 10 years ago. It’s all part of the same problem of a declining city. Fewer people means fewer rich people who donate too.

  • fflambeau says:

    Zinman has been a wonderful conductor and leader and he showed it again. Peter Kjome shows, on the other hand, that he is 3rd rate and clueless.