Next question: Where’s Marin?

Next question: Where’s Marin?


norman lebrecht

June 17, 2019

When a US orchestra went on strike or was locked out by its employers, the convention used to be that the music director said nothing. One maestro explained to me that, since he would have to work with both sides after the eventual settlement, diplomatic silence was the safe option.

That convention, however, has been broken twice in the past decade – first by Osmo Vanska siding with the locked-out musicians in Minnesota, and more recently by Riccardo Muti backing the strikers in Chicago.

That leaves Baltimore’s music director Marin Alsop in a tight spot.

Through the past year of tense negotiations she has said nothing. Does she break silence now?  And at what cost? It’s an unenviable dilemma for a decent and thoughtful musician.



  • fflambeau says:

    Riccardo Muti did very little during the strike after his initial appearance. You are being unfair to Marin Alsop.

  • Poll J. Bluzogh says:

    Shouldn’t the orchestra be 63% black anyway, to reflect the ethnic composition of this vibrant city? Wouldn’t that produce a tidal wave of support from the thriving populace of this outstanding municipality?

    • Anonanon says:

      You aren’t wrong, but that’s more of an industry question than a Baltimore one. Major American orchestras are national and international ensembles. Almost all of the musicians/conductors relocate there for that job from somewhere else, just like all Oriole or Ravens players do. There has been a lot of discussion in recent years about how to support and develop top talent that does look more like America as a whole, and it’s definitely needed as long as classical music takes so much support from public money or private charity… but I don’t know if I would single the Baltimore Symphony out on that front.

  • Mock Mahler says:

    It’s not accurate to say that she has been “silent.” Before a concert audience some weeks ago, she made a statement that Baltimore was the only full-time, 52-week orchestra in the US “with a woman conductor.” (Cheers.) At each classical concert since the summer cancellation, she has walked onstage together with the musicians and among them while a musician made a statement. No one present at those concerts had any doubt where she stood.

  • John Borstlap says:

    In this case, best would be to side with the musicians, since all reports whos that the board is in the wrong.

  • Mike says:

    ‘decent and thoughtful musician’ are the key words here.

  • Amos says:

    It would seem that Maestra Alsop’s dilemma is especially difficult because at the outset of her tenure with the BSO a significant faction of players were opposed to her appointment. Maestro Muti’s support for the CSO players was certainly heartening but his position is entirely different than MP’s. Completely agree that, based on the public record, her professional endeavors and commitment to Baltimore are laudable.

    • Frank says:

      Very true. A lot of sexist pigs in the Baltimore Symphony didn’t want a woman on the podium. That’s also partly why no other top 30 orchestra in the US has been able to break the glass ceiling since.

      • The View from America says:

        I’d give the BSO musicians a bit more credit than that. Perhaps they wanted to play under the direction of a top-notch conductor regardless of gender, and didn’t think that particular candidate met the criteria.

      • Anonymuss says:

        “A lot of sexist pigs in the Balt Symphony…”
        This is a provable lie and you should be ashamed of yourself.

    • drummerman says:

      The players were not opposed to her appointment. They were upset (rightly so) that they were not consulted enough on the choice of M.D.

  • Jon H says:

    The money situation has been around for a while, and although many would be sad if she left, it’s always surprised me that she didn’t leave already. She seems really committed to the orchestra.

  • Mick the Knife says:

    My opinion, for what its worth, is that a more glamorous conductor could attract more money. The second thing is that there is no presence at venues like the Merriweather Post Pavilion. I see the “Soulful Symphony” doing concerts all summer there. Why couldn’t the BSO manage to claim some turf? Management is sitting on its hands, except for when it throws in the towel.

  • Oleg Y. Stroganov says:

    While we’re about it, then #WheresRuth? Last non-CGI proof of life was early December.

  • MacroV says:

    Alsop has been a terrific leader in Baltimore, not just as a conductor of the orchestra but in trying to make the orchestra an influential institution in a troubled city. No matter what she says publicly, she’s got to be deeply troubled by how the financial situation is undermining much of what she is trying to achieve.

    • Enquiring mind says:

      How does OrchKids, women conductor programs, or women composer projects bring in financial support or add to the artistic merit of the orchestra?

      • andrew says:

        How is it undermining the artistic merit in your opinion?

        • enquiring mind says:

          Takes resources that could directly improve the concert: better conductors, soloists, best orchestra musicians.

      • MacroV says:

        It may not bring in financial support, but it boosts the orchestra’s relevance, AND its artistic merit. Gives the orchestra a role in a challenged city other than playing the music of dead, white, European males to an aging, shrinking white demographic. Just like the Berlin Phil’s education program, YOLA, etc..

  • Insie Ingulatu says:

    Marin’s tie to the organization differs in that she is not part of the collective bargaining agreement between Baltimore Symphony Orchestra management and the orchestra musicians. Her salary most likely lies outside the realm of the budget and may be provided by a deep pocketed board member or a board consortium.

    Should she be involved? Yes, she should.

    Will she? Probably not.

    She is not loved by the orchestra, but she is not the problem here nor the answer to the resolution of this work stoppage.

    If this current management had a 7- Eleven franchise, they would have been stripped of their duties within a year.

    Managing a multimillion dollar performing arts organization is not for the timid. The current CEO has failed and failed over a long period of time.
    Fund raising and the delegation of fund raising through staff is at the heart of that job description. It is now obvious that he fell short of his duties.

  • Dan Jordan says:

    When the Sarasota Orchestra had contract disputes, Our director at the time, Leif Bjaland, sided with with musicians. And after his contract was up the following year, the management promptly got rid of him. But he also hasn’t managed to find another conducting position with any other orchestras so perhaps it was more an issue of his deficiencies as a Music Director than him being too outspoken. I mean, if he was at all any kind of decent music director, he would have landed another conducting post by now….. Dreadful.