Marin Alsop to leave Baltimore

Marin Alsop to leave Baltimore


norman lebrecht

February 26, 2020

Marin Alsop will step down as Music Director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra after 14 years, it was announced today.

From September 2021, she will be known as Music Director Laureate and OrchKids Founder.

After last year’s bitter lockout, this is not unexpected.





  • Mock Mahler says:

    There were signs that this was coming. One can suspect here a management Plan B: lower the profile of the BSO, making it easier to have their way with the musicians.

  • Erste Geige says:

    Thanks god… Marin Alsop is such a mediocre conductor and a lousy musician. I played under her several times in both the US and Europe and it feels like she spends more time writing about herself in social media and giving interviews rather than actually studying her scores. There are plenty of gifted female conductors out there, why would someone even consider hiring such an ungifted and under-qualified conductor???

    • Maria says:

      IYO! Obviously others think differently and more generous!

    • Rich C. says:

      Horrible Mahler conductor. Her M1 is the worst of all time.

    • Herbert von Solti says:

      You actually played under her? Well now I’m plain curious as these other folks writing have not done so. I really never knew anything “inside” only that she got a big boost from studying with Bernstein, and her American Composer recordings (his included obviously) were pretty decent. I’m curious what will happen with her Conducting students at Peabody…. One thing I CAN say is that she is better to Classical fans than many Conductors…..I have never once had MTT, Esa PS, or even Joanne Falleta answer a Tweet or Insta comment. But Marin, along with Andris Nelsons and Yannick NS HAVE. But I havent seen her through your close perspective so I’m curious.

      • The View from America says:

        Not everyone is on all of the social platforms. I can’t speak about MTT or E-PS because I do not follow them on social media, but I do see that JAF responds to Facebook comments on a regular basis.

    • sara says:

      Total agreement. Played under her too. Under qualified American CONductor. More in US style narcopathy and « social « blather than substance.

    • Stereo says:

      Well said. Shall we say a straight Male conductor with far more talent wouldn’t get half the work she does.I wonder why?

  • Flutista says:

    She is done ruining Baltimore and my colleagues in Austria tell me that she is now busy ruining Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra… I feel truly sorry for Ravinia, they are next in line ):

  • JM says:

    It’s no longer a secret that MA can’t really manage an orchestra and lacks some basic management, conducting and musicianship skills. I think it’s time for her to step down, not only from Baltimore, but from orchestra conducting in general. It’s time for her to make room for those female and male conductors who do have the skills and talent needed for this profession.

  • Baltimore says:

    It’s about time!!! We had enough of her.

  • Not a fan says:

    Finally! Hopefully they find a competent conductor next

  • Amos says:

    I have no “inside” information but I suspect it has been in the works ever since she was appointed. If so it is a shame because she is not only a first-rate musician but by all appearances an ideal person to lead an American orchestra located in or near an urban city. Her commitment to American composers is well documented as is her desire to broaden the audience of the BSO.

  • fflambeau says:

    She has conducting duties in South America and Chicago. She’s excellent.

    I would expect she will be in the “mix” for Muti’s replacement in Chicago and also as head of the Concertgebouw.

  • A Musician says:

    It’s time to put an end to this unbearable Alsop fashion. Yes, the same Alsop that starts every post or twit with #firstfemaleconductor. She doesn’t care about the musicians or the music, she just wants to be remembered as the first female conductor doing this and doing that. I’m so disgusted by her fake attitude…

  • American Maestro says:

    She is the last American music director of a top 20 (or so) US orchestra. When she leaves, it is only foreigners conducting there.
    Unless I missed someone.

  • Bill says:

    Taking a page from the Osmo Vänska playbook, right? Leave immediately after a bitter lockout? Oh, oops, he didn’t, did he? Do you have an example of someone recently leaving their orchestra after a lockout?

    • Bruce says:

      Louisville has had so many problems, and so many music directors, that I’d be surprised if there wasn’t a “coincidence” or two…

  • Sir David Geffen-Hall says:

    Somewhere in Baltimore someone is turning a cartwheel.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    No knock on Ms. Alsop here, but we’ll soon be running out of Laureate positions.
    SF Symphony has a Laureate Conductor, Herbert Blomstedt, and as I understand, MTT will soon be named Music Director Laureate.
    I propose the newly-created positions of Orchestra Manager Laureate, Stage Manager Laureate, Usher Laureate, Bartender In Charge Of Irish Coffee Laureate, and Bartender Who Just Uncaps And Pours Small Bottles Of Wine, Beer, And Sparkling Water Laureate.
    Do I hear any other suggestions?

  • Evan Tucker says:

    It was time for everybody to start over, but thank you Marin for everything you’ve done for us. You weathered a very difficult situation with Herculean patience and perseverance. You never deserved the vitriol you got, either here or elsewhere, and you mounted some truly wonderful concerts over the years. Baltimore will realize what we’ve lost the moment after you leave.

  • minda says:

    Jonathan Rush conducting Beethoven 7 with BSO seems a potential candidate. A black Leonard Bernstein

  • Bruce says:

    I dunno, I felt like they really messed up when Zinman left. They had built a strong presence as an American orchestra that played American music, to rival the Slatkin/ St. Louis team in the 1980s. (Check out the proportion of American composers in their list of recordings together:

    Then Temirkanov utterly turned his back on the US and the 20th century. I guess as an institution they were trying to go back to their old mission when they hired Alsop, but the landscape had changed in those 7 or 8 years, and they’d lost a lot of ground that was very difficult if not impossible to regain. And of course the conductor gets the blame for not being able to get the orchestra back to the status it had before.

    • Evan Tucker says:

      That’s exactly what happened. Temirkanov had virtually all of Zinman’s key solo players fired, brought in his own hires, and never was around long enough to retrain the group. During the 90s, the BSO was one of the five top orchestras in America, much better than many underperforming bigger names. See for yourselves here:

      Temirkanov is a great conductor in many ways, but he was an absolute disaster for the Baltimore Symphony. He clearly took the job to get American dollars during the Russian troubles in the 90s, but he took the Baltimore job at virtually the same time that Putin succeeded Yeltsin, the Russian economy stabilized for better. Toward the end of his brief tenure, he cancelled again and again, at one point literally a month’s worth of concerts (I will not repeat the nasty rumors I heard as to why…).

      Sviatoslav Richter, in his diaries, said ‘Temirkanov is a vicious man’, I doubt Temirkanov was truly vicious but he was a conductor who came up in the Soviet system, accustomed to fighting dirty in order to get his way and all too accustomed to tragedy.

      Alsop and Baltimore was a bad marriage which she made the best of, arranged in false circumstances by a hot-shot executive looking to make a statement. She is a better conductor now than when she came to Baltimore, but even at her worst she was never more dull than a number of thoroughly un-inspiring Americans who for reasons that are both mystifying and obvious never catch anything like the same flak.

      • Sammi says:

        I am sorry but your comments regarding Temirkanov are simply not factually correct. He took a fine orchestra from Zinman and raised it even higher. When he left the only vacant chair was the harp. He hired a slew of fine players. Alsop inherited an ensemble firing on all cylinders and ran it into the ground artistically and financially. If the board would have halted her tenure at 8 years or so the bso would have avoided the meltdown. And whoever says she was good at raising money simply does not know the numbers.

        • Omar Little says:

          Nah Sammi. You’re completely wrong. Yuri was a complete disaster in every sense of the word for the BSO.

          AGAIN…THIS ENSEBLE RAIDED ITS ENDOWMENT FOR $30 MILLION BECAUSE IT COULDN’T PAY ITS BILL IN 2006 AND 2007. This is not a healthy organization and the Russian Rocket made it worse.

          The BSO apologists are out in force as always. This is a crap orchestra, led by crap management, in a city that doesn’t care.

          Also, anyone realize that they’ve stopped selling a quarter of their hall? For 80 percent of the concerts, the Terrace level is closed taking away about 28% of the seating of the hall. Yeah…ticket sales are better when you change the rules to make yourselves look better.

          What a joke the BSO is.

        • Evan Tucker says:

          Not true, Mr. Sammi, and not valid. She inherited an ensemble no longer sufficiently trained or drilled and operating on the spontaneous combustion of a music director who was never there. After 2000, the air-tight ensemble and individualized sound of the Zinman years was never to be found again, replaced as so many other orchestras are by pure luck of whether the orchestra makes it through together and what side of the bed the conductor wakes up on. Some days, the ensemble was there and the BSO covered themselves in glory, some days both good ensemble was entirely absent, and that would be forgivable inspiration was entirely absent, and it in comparison to the 90s BSO, it was an embarrassment. This was as true under Temirkanov as it was under Alsop. When Temirkanov presented his list of seven principles to management that needed to be fired immediately, institutional memory was chopped out like an axe. Unless the MD was of the Zinman caliber, which Alsop admittedly is not, that incision of ensemble and extremely individualized sound was never going to return. After Zinman the BSO had the chance to hire Ivan Fischer, Kent Nagano, Paavo Berglund, Yakov Kreizberg, for any number of great musicians who could have preserved Zinman’s achievement and would have taken their responsibilities seriously, and they blew it all on a celebrity maestro whom they should have known would treat them like a one-night stand. Very very few conductors would have done any better than Alsop on that score.

  • Bruce says:

    If she was really as bad as her detractors say, she’d never have risen above the university/ community orchestra level. Keep in mind that when she started, the current “all you have to do is be a woman and you’ll get work” attitude (real or perceived) was not in place yet. It was uphill all the way.

    Of course, people like Alan Gilbert and Kent Nagano are also considered “the worst ever,” proving that you have to be super terrible to get big orchestra jobs…

    • Hmus says:

      I have no ‘skin in this game’ have never heard Alsop conduct live, but I have to say that the wildly disproportionate negative votes vs the postive don’t resemble ratios seen with any other conductor (or, indeed other topics) on this blog.

      It smacks of a single-minded vendetta, perhaps even a single person amplifying their input through sock-puppeting or the use of a bot. Though, I should point out, the latter is not even needed: it is possible to leave the site here and come back again and add more upvotes or downvotes at will, several times a day even. It’s a basic flaw that Norman should get corrected.

      • Omar Little says:

        Hey HMUS…every think that working for the BSO sucks so much that former employees come here by the truckload to complain about this horrible organization and give their thumbs and negative comments?

        Add that to a worldwide constituency who works with these former employees or have worked with the Maestra, and you get these comments. cannot be underscored. Working for the BSO is the worst job in Baltimore right now. The musicians are cruel and awful to the staff, the management that’s left is inept which is why they’ve run everyone with talent out of the organization, and to add insult to injury…NO ONE IN BALTIMORE CARES ABOUT THIS ENSEMBLE. If they did, it wouldn’t have been in labor and financial strife since 1983.

        Take the BSO, the leadership and many of the board members out back and put them out of their misery and start again. Or don’t…Baltimore doesn’t care.

      • Stereo says:

        Believe me we who have played under her find her conducting very ordinary and that is being very kind.

  • John Porter says:

    Alsop should consider all the horrid comments a badge of honor. When Bernstein left the New York Philharmonic in 1969 the musicians and critics couldn’t have been happier (of course, less than a decade later they wanted him back). People tired of Szell in Cleveland and trashed him. They tired of Ozawa in Boston and trashed him. Alan Gilbert wasn’t good enough in NY. Zubin Mehta was roundly disliked at the end of his tenure in NY. Barenboim in Chicago…Lorin Maazel in Cleveland and New York…I could go on and on. The fact of the matter is that Marin Alsop was a great leader of music in Baltimore and while she conducts some thing better than others (see Toscanini), between OrchKids, her promotion of the orchestra including fundraising, some excellent hirings and improvement of the orchestra personnel, and her generosity of spirit and finances, I guarantee you that people will long for the day they had her around, particularly when no one outside of a few cognoscenti will know the name of the future BSO music directors.

  • TubaMinimum says:

    I completely admit I’m one of those classical fans that can tell the bad and the transcendent conductors from my seat in the audience, but I am terrible at parsing the great stair steps of competency in between those two poles. So I won’t wade into the messy peanut section on how good she is or isn’t. Also it seems that if you get some amount of popular hype machine (Dudamel or Alsop), there is some inevitable backlash.

    But as uninformed as my opinion may be since she fell somewhere in the middle as a conductor, I enjoyed the times I saw her conduct. I appreciated the work she did in education and championing new music. Most of all I enjoyed a conductor who would turn around and talk to the audience about the music.