The 75 years the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra celebrates this week have not all been as glorious as the current era might suggest. In fact, the orchestra as we know it was only constituted in 1942, and after early success under the baton of Reginald Stewart, the orchestra entered a slump that lasted until Sergiu Comissiona arrived in 1969.
It's worth remembering that bumpy history now, at a time when the BSO has become truly major league. The orchestra has become a jewel in which all of Maryland can take pride, with its polished performances, its recordings and tours and, of course, the elegant hall in which it makes its home.
But like all institutions, orchestras must continue to grow or risk falling backward. That has already happened once to the BSO, when in the late 1940s and early 1950s an orchestra that had begun to earn a name for itself began a slide into mediocrity that lasted almost two decades -- largely because community support flagged badly during those years. That is a lesson this community should take to heart.
In the past few years, the BSO has shown that an orchestra can flourish in Baltimore. But its birthday celebration is a timely reminder that the orchestra's future is not something the community can take for granted. The exuberance of future celebrations will depend in large part on the support the BSO continues to receive and the pride the community takes in its accomplishments.