Marin Alsop is ‘nearing the end’ in Baltimore

Marin Alsop is ‘nearing the end’ in Baltimore


norman lebrecht

November 13, 2019

She shares her frustrations with the local newspaper. ‘I find this is a difficult institution to get air time in because we don’t talk about the art first. Nobody ever talks to me. Barely.’

That sounds like curtains.



  • Mock Mahler says:

    The people who initiated the disastrously failed lockout, led by ‘President and CEO’ Peter Kjome, have undertaken an aggressive campaign (including mailings, emails, and applause-milking appearances on stage), which clearly is designed to assert their continued authority. Alsop and the musicians appear to get minor play in all this noise.

  • Karl says:

    Everything is nearing the end in Baltimore.

    • Barry Guerrero says:

      It’s nothing new, Randy Newman and Nina Simone were singing the blues about “Baltimore” clear back in the ’70s.

      • The View from America says:

        … even while filmmaker John Waters was celebrating its tawdriness: Mondo Trasho, Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, Desperate Living …

  • Jon H says:

    At this point in her career, she deserves to be somewhere where all the things she does well are fully realized. She’s past the 10 year mark in Baltimore anyway, so it’s probably time. And hopefully she’ll stay in good health, because I feel she’ll only get better with age.

  • Calvin says:

    This is disappointing as it seemed that the elements of success might have been in place, but Baltimore presents a difficult broader environment to be sure. I wonder what Alsop’s next step will be.

  • Dennis says:

    More from the article: “For example, 2020 is the 250th anniversary of the birth of composer Ludwig van Beethoven. Alsop will celebrate that milestone by leading nine orchestras on five continents (including the BSO) in performances of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in an initiative known as ‘A Global Ode to Joy.’ Those performances will feature a new translation of the ‘Ode’ by the Baltimore-based rapper Wordsmith”

    A rap “Ode to Joy.” God help us.

    • Herbster says:

      We are doomed.

    • Lauren Michelle Lynley says:

      I like Alsop and I come from a rock music culture; with that said, the wholesale degradation of classical arts is appalling and does nothing of substance to put backsides in seats for authentic classical arts performances. Rap/Hip Hop “culture” has subsumed everything in its path and society is poorer for it. Without a benchmark of excellence to either aspire to or even to rebel against, everything turns into sonic sludge. Alsop needs to go to Europe and reacquaint herself with the true classical arts. She has been in Baltimore too long and it is having an adverse effect on her.

  • Larry says:

    when I click on the link, I get this message:

  • Greg Bottini says:

    Norman, the link goes to a wall saying that the article is unavailable.
    Can you reprint it in full on SD?

  • Fliszt says:

    In this article, Alsap is quoted “The Baltimore Symphony is the only major orchestra in the United States to have a woman as its leader.” Excuse me? How about JoAnn Faletta in Buffalo?

    • TubaMinimum says:

      Depends what you mean by “major.” The League of American Orchestras has an internal category based on budget size and season length that groups orchestras together with peers. There are something like 25 “Group 1” orchestras and Baltimore is one. Buffalo is “Group 2.” So usually when someone says “major” they are referring to this metric without referring to it directly.

    • Jack says:

      MAJOR orchestra

  • Stephanie Stephanie says:

    Very sad commentary indeed about the complete ignorance of the (mis)management of the BSO. Kjome and cronies have NO musical knowledge or interest and are only seeking to fill their pockets at the expense of the musicians and the art itself. Marin is an internationally known conductor, who has furthered the growth of the BSO into an international orchestra. Obviously, this means nothing to management. I can’t believe that Kjome has been locked up!

    • Fridolf says:

      In fact, Peter Kjome knows a great deal about music and cares about it deeply. He has degrees in oboe performance from the Cleveland Institute, where he studied with the legendary teacher, John Mack. He was one of the best players in his generation.

      From that vantage point, he knows very well the dire risks facing the Baltimore Symphony and what is at stake for the musicians, the city, and the whole sector if the organization fails.

      To say that he is “only seeking to fill [his] pockets at the expense of the musicians and the art itself” is untrue and uninformed. Kjome has been asked to lead an organization through an existential crisis, one that started long before he was hired.

      You can insult Kjome if that makes you feel better—perhaps you insult your dentist when you are told that you need a root canal—but there are no easy answers to this situation.

      • Brady Anderson says:

        Studying at CIM does not make someone qualified in any way shape or form to run the baltimore symphony. He’s completely out of his element having only run the grand rapids symphony before coming to Baltimore and he has absolutely no clue what he’s doing and that is clear to anyone with half a brain.

        • fridolf says:

          You are absolutely correct, a music degree does not prepare someone to be a CEO. (Stephanie Stephanie asserts Kjome neither knew nor cared about music, which is demonstratively false.)

          With the real possibility that I might only have half a brain, I admit that I do not readily see simple solutions to complex problems … but if an organization does not produce enough money to cover expenses, it seems to me that they need to grow revenue while being disciplined about expenses. If their capitalization is weak, as well, the mountain is tougher to summit.

          There are investments that produce revenue, and others that do not.

          • Brady Anderson says:

            And hiring someone from a podunk orchestra like grand rapids and expecting them to be able to see the complexity of running an organization like the Baltimore Symphony is a horrific sign of the lack of competence by the board of the orchestra. However, to go along with a lockout is a complete and total betrayal of Mr. Kjome’s origins as an orchestral musician. By being complicit in this horrific lockout, he has lost all right to call himself a musician first.
            He must not have been a particularly good oboist either if all he could manage to do is sub at midwestern orchsetras (despite the John Mack education he received) and play at a tiny little pickup band like Grand Rapids.

          • Fridolf says:

            As Rumi said, “judge a moth by its flame” … your reflexive ad hominem attacks speak volumes.

            Insult the city of Grand Rapids, insult Kjome’s playing, insult musicians who sub in midwestern orchestras, insult the Grand Rapids Symphony, (if you’d like to insult me, I won’t mind), these are not ways to win support or solve an important and difficult problem.

  • Omar Little says:

    Not in the article, but overheard by members of the press in when asked about Kjome’s business strategies – “As I was taught in Six Sigma – analyze, strategize, succeed. I’m going to crush this problem — with my A.S.S.”

    The Baltimore Philharmonic is ever so close to becoming Baltimore’s answer to these issues.

  • ej says:

    marin is a not only a great musician but a pioneer in repertoire and orchestra building. i wish her nothing but the best. but if she does leave…. someday baltimore will remember her legacy …..and regret not have embracing it more fully.

  • fliszt says:

    Alsap is no wilting flower: Upon her appointment in Baltimore, her first major achievement was to oust the man who hired her without securing the orchestra’s approval, a nincompoop named James Glicker, whose brief tenure nearly ruined the BSO. That feat alone was enough to earn her the musicians respect.

  • Larry says:

    I mean absolutely no disrespect to Ms. Alsop — don’t know her, never met her or worked with her — but I don’t see reminding people that she is the only woman music director of a major American orchestra is newsworthy at this juncture, since she has been referred to that way countless times (and rightly so) over the years.

  • Musician says:

    Management forced her on the musicians when she was hired in the first place. They all showed up to work being told she would be their new music director without any of them being consulted! Most were pissed, are still pissed, and will be glad to see her go. She’s a mediocre conductor who hasn’t made it to the next level based on her ability alone, NOT that she happens to be female.

  • Em Peach says:

    Marin Alsop is the only American Music Director conducting a major league orchestra in the USA. (Who has not already said they’re leaving). That is quite remarkable and I guess unprecedented.

  • steve says:

    What does the gender of the conductor matter to the quality of the art?! Nothing!

  • fflambeau says:

    I think you’re right. Maybe it is time for this major talent to completely leave this backwater institution.

    She has ties to Chicago and would make a great replacement for Muti when he leaves. I also think she would market them well world-wide. But she has lots of options.

    Zinman also left Baltimore with a bad taste in his mouth; he also is a major talent.

  • Dorothy says:

    “The Baltimore Symphony is the only major orchestra in the United States to have a woman as its leader, and we haven’t capitalized on that once,” Alsop said. “I don’t know if it’s too late. I just think that’s something, especially in this #MeToo moment, that we could really have used.”

    I am not sure the first statement is entirely true…about four or five years ago – I seem to recall this Women of the World Project festival that took place over a few days and they did it for a few years…with her at the helm, right? And doesn’t the BSO continue to promote those Taki fellows?
    And, the Joan of Arc trip to Carnegie Hall? That was cool! I think the BSO could do more around her being a woman and celebrating women; but just looking back – I think they did some things!

  • Mick the Knife says:

    What the Baltimore Symphony needs is big league guest conductors and big league soloists. The orchestra will produce and excitement will grow. I would like to see Barenboim, DuToit, Mehta, Argerich, and Vengerov level stars perform in Baltimore and similar size markets for fees those orchestras can afford.

    • saurer4 says:

      The line-up of well-known soloists is pretty good this season. Off the top of my head: Emanuel Ax, Gil Shaham, Viktoria Mullova, Ray Chen, James Ehnes, Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Itzhak Perlman for the gala concert… The guest conductors aren’t big draws, though.

  • Barry says:

    Indeed, in our contemporary culture, music has been limited to entertainment. Also classifying music into “classical” and “pop” etc has missed the point that there is only good and bad music
    Unfortunately, too many conductors/orchestras have “cliqued ” bad “classical Music”
    Maestra has not been an exception. ….

  • Barry says:

    What moderation?

  • Enquiring Mind says:

    The BSO is spending 10 million a year on orchkids? No wonder they are in trouble. What is the point? Is that going to build donors and audience?

  • Plush says:

    She should quit now. She will be hired by some other group soon because this is the year of the “woman.”