NOW THAT he has conducted his last concert as music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore can take stock of David Zinman's contribution to this region's cultural life. It has been enormous.
Mr. Zinman was an institution builder. He made the musical ensemble better and more versatile. He took an orchestra that some admirers said could not survive the loss of his predecessor, Sergiu Comissiona, and made it thrive.
He took the orchestra to recording prominence with Grammy-winning performances. He made important, critically acclaimed tours with the orchestra to the most demanding classical music audiences in Europe and Asia. He took an orchestra that had attracted some of the world's great soloists and built a coterie that followed him to Tokyo or Oregon Ridge.
In a profession dominated by exotic foreigners, Mr. Zinman was an ordinary American guy. He got on famously with the players, chatted up the audiences at casual concerts and made small talk with donors. These strengths would have counted for nothing had he not been at the core a consummate musician who raised the level of play of his colleagues during 13 demanding seasons.
Mr. Zinman will be missed but is no more indispensable than Mr. Comissiona proved to be. His contribution was to build an orchestra, and its audience, that would attract one of the world's most eminent conductors, Yuri Temirkanov of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic in Russia, to be his successor. That would have been unthinkable earlier.
There are challenges to the players in this. They must hold their sound quality through a year of guest conductors without a music director.
Mr. Temirkanov is one of the most accomplished conductors in the world, but his skills are not identical to Mr. Zinman's. He won't spend as long each year with the orchestra as Mr. Zinman did, putting more responsibility on the ensemble's members.
But Mr. Temirkanov may bring the BSO even further to the NTC forefront of symphony orchestras. Just thinking about the possibilities is exciting. For that, Baltimoreans have David Zinman to thank.
Pub Date: 6/14/98